Then there’re things you can do that you shouldn’t…

AMNews: Sept. 21, 2009. Should you keep patients from commenting online? … American Medical News
What do physicians have in common with restaurants, dry cleaners and plumbers? All are being critiqued online by the public.

Is there anything you can do about it? Yes. Have your patients sign a contract promising not to talk about you online.

First, this sort of thing just feeds the idea that docs are out of touch at best.  (The people who would sign this are the kind who wouldn’t even think about it anyway, or are willing to lie to get the medical care they came for).  Really, this is as stupid as a Loyalty Oath.

Second, if I’m a patient and my doc handed me one of these, I’d laugh and walk out. I hope you will, too.


  1. Personal honor aside, could this even be a binding legal contract? Or would it be considered to be “under duress”?
    Personally I don’t think I would trust any professional (in any industry) who asked/required such a contract. What do they have to hide? Do they feel threatened by their own competence?

  2. I’m with you and William on this one, GruntDoc. The past 2 years I’ve been involved in 3 surgeries (1 for me and 2 for my daughter). Both times they had a disclaimer form they wanted me to sign. They were most perturbed when I said I wanted to read it first – particularly my daughter’s second surgery.
    “But we’ve just explained the procedure to you” they spluttered.
    So they may have done, but I learned the hard way not to sign without reading!! And once I’ve read, if I’m not happy, I don’t add a Hancock.

    William, perhaps it’s not their competence they feel threatened by; it’s their possible incompetence which tightens their sphincter.

  3. Glen in Texas says:

    Silly to try to limit legit comments.

    There is another side of this however. There are at least two web sites that rate and review doctors that work this way: Your clinic infomation is posted online, and a single derogatory comment is shown. The web site owner then calls the clinic, informing you of the “bad review”. You are then invited to pay a fee, which allows the clinic to update information, and post a response on the web site.

    Thankfully, 6 years of navy experience gives me an adequate vocabulary to deal with this sort of scam.

    It is unpleasant to see a practic defamed online. In the great scheme of things, online comments matter very little. People select doctors based on discussion with friends, co-workers, and family doc’s suggestions. Names from this are then run through a provider directory from the prospective patient’s insurance carrier.

    To prosper, doctors should encourage patients to talk with others about the physician and the practice. If you encourage patients to remain silent, it will be very difficult to build a successful practice.

  4. I can’t imagine any of my doctors asking such a ridiculous thing, but if one did I certainly wouldn’t do it even though I don’t comment on them online. I’d also never look for online comments about a doctor I was considering seeing because I know disgruntled people are the ones most likely to comment, some sites are scams like the ones described by Glen in Texas, and most of all because the anonymity of the Web leads some people to give their inner jackasses free rein. Therefore, the vast majority of such comments would be worthless anyway.

  5. That’s a little “big brother”-ish… can’t say I support that idea.

  6. GruntDoc, you are so right! First, of all that is no way to foster the doctor-patient relationship. You are supposed to be building trust with your patients, not making them feel like your just looking to cover your tracks. Second, like Finn said, the people who go out of their way to use those site are typically those who are unhappy…and not always reliably so. Third, the best way for physicians to combat these “evaluation” sites, is to have their own online voice. This is why having a Web site and active web presence as a physician can be so beneficial to your practice and reputation. What’s more, if you do it right then you’ll include testimonials from satisfied patients to provide info seeks with the other side of the coin. A confidentiality form is not the way to go, instead get on the Web and represent yourself.

  7. I have to agree about the online services for doctor rating. I was most impressed and pleased with my son’s doctor that I went to one of the services online and commented on how happy I was with this doctor and staff. I waited for days and never saw it published. If I were a doctor that was rated badly by a comment I would hire an attorney and make them disclose all comments reported to them. I even told the receptionist at the Dr.s office that I made the comment, that is when the comment box comes in very handy at the office. Explain to patients that their comments are valued good or bad, and then you have actual records that may be used in a possible dispute with these online companies. We have had good and bad doctors, the bad we don’t visit again. The caring and skilled we stay with. That is the true measure of care.