“Medical Muzzle”

A viewer sent me an article from “Angie’s List” called “Medical Muzzle”…its an interesting read and I found important information inside that we should all look out for…

The question the writer raises is “Do you think patients have a right to speak about their experiences -good, bad or otherwise-to whomever they like? Or do you think doctors have a right to privacy that overrules patients’ rights to free speech?”

“Review” boards can be found everywhere on the web. For example, I know if I’m looking for a restaurant/mechanic/electronics, etc…I will type in a business name into Google along with “review.” Websites like epinions.com or Angieslist.com will pop up…sites were consumers sound off with their personal experiences with a business.

Now people are using that same medium to rate and review their doctors…in response, there are some medical clinics that are issuing “gag orders” to keep their patients silent.

The order is a 1 page contract added to all the other paperwork a patient receives. The patient must “refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing commentary” about the doctor and/or care received. If you do…the doctor has the right to sue for damages. Currently, no lawsuits have been filed…yet.

A company called “Medical Justice” out of Greensboro N.C. was incorporated in 2001 by neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Segal to help protect doctors against what Segal calls ‘frivolous malpractice lawsuits.’ In 2007 they started offering these “gag order” contracts in order to protect physician’s good name.

The article points out that even doctors have bad days…and one bad review can poison the pot. Lawyers that Angie’s List spoke to said these contracts wont hold much weight against First Amendment rights.

The article says that as word spread about these gag orders…there’s been an unexpected effect….MORE people are posting online comments about doctors. (Probably because now they’re finding out they CAN). Health care reports jumped 50% on AngiesList.com between January and March.

I’d be curious to know if any of you have encountered a “gag order” here in our area…or if you’re using boards like Angie’s List to sound off about your medical experiences….

Here’s an idea of what one of these “reviews” looks like…this is for a Dr. in our area:

Work Completed Date: December 04, 2008

Use this Provider Again: Yes

Description of Experience: Bi-annual teeth cleaning and examination. Also has filled a cavity.
Member Comments: 
When you walk into his office, it is clear that he has money. The waiting area is very posh, there are massage chairs in the exam rooms, etc. They seem to be more about cosmetic dentistry – veneers, Zoom, etc. They give you a rose on your first visit (women), and an assistant will stroke your arm during a procedure. I don’t like all of the added things, but he was recommended by a friend. I haven’t had much work done, but what he has done has been fine. They did take impressions of my husband without asking first.

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