Doctors rebel against online patient reviews

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Associated Press Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner reports that almost 2,000 doctors have signed up for a service providing waivers barring patients who sign them from posting on online doctor-rating sites like Angie’s List and RateMDs.com.

North Carolina neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Segal’s firm, Medical Justice, gives paying doctors waiver forms to give patients and alerts them when a review appears online. Medical Justice allows doctors to use signed waiver forms to then have the offending comments removed, which he said had been done in “several instances.”

Some sites “are little more than tabloid journalism without much interest in constructively improving practices,” and their sniping comments can unfairly ruin a doctor’s reputation, Segal said.
Segal said such postings say nothing about what should really matter to patients — a doctor’s medical skills — and privacy laws and medical ethics prevent leave doctors powerless to do anything it.

According to Tanner, the co-founder of RateMDs.com said he refuses to take comments down when confronted with a signed waiver. Northwestern University Internet law specialist and attorney Jim Speta questioned the effectiveness of such waivers, Tanner said.

“Courts might say the balance of power between doctors and patients is very uneven” and that patients should be able to give feedback on their doctors’ performance, Speta said.

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