Should you have the opportunity to rate and review doctors online? This is a current topic of controversy, as some doctors’ groups are seeking gag orders to prevent patients’ reviews.

What do you think? Do value reviews posted from previous or current clients? Or should they be for non-medical businesses only? According to Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a North Carolina neurosurgeon who has made a business of helping doctors monitor and prevent online criticism, “Consumers and patients are hungry for good information” about doctors, but Internet reviews provide just the opposite. Dr. Segal believes that online reviews are not constructive in helping medical practices improve, and that sniping comments can unfairly ruin a doctor’s practice.

Several online rating sites exist. RateMDs.com and Angie’s List are just two sites that provide reviews of MDs. Satisfied customers can post on their doctors, just as I did for the OB who delivered our eldest daughter Delilah (mine is dated 3/7/09). But disgruntled patients can also post, and likely more of these post than happy customers. Just call it the law of “bad press.” Happy customers might be satisfied (or more) with their care, but they usually just go about their lives not sharing it with anyone. Disgruntled, unsatisfied customers, however, want to tell everyone how they feel. That’s just they way it goes.

Dr. Segal is of the opinion that online reviews should, but rarely do, say anything about a doctor’s medical skills, expertise or knowledge–the factors that matter the most. He believes that bedside manner, punctuality and other non-technical factors shouldn’t make or break a practice; but that’s what people review, and that can dangerous to doctors. Hmmmm.

So here’s what they want to do: His company, Medical Justice, based in Greensboro, N.C. provides doctors (for a fee) with a standardized waiver agreement. Patients who sign the waiver agree not to post online comments about the doctor, “his expertise and/or treatment.” Segal’s company advises doctors to have all patients sign the agreements. If a new patient refuses, the doctor might suggest finding another doctor.

Nice, huh? Sign the waiver saying you won’t review me, otherwise, go somewhere else. Patient care in exchange for a guarantee that you won’t tell the world what you think. Unbelievable. As if doctoring should be above what all other businesses are subject to. Perhaps this is one of the major problems with the health care system in general right now–it’s held above the natural laws of consumerism. You can’t shop around for knee surgery based on price (go ahead, try), only on a doctor’s reputation. And now they want to take that right away from you. You can tell your neighbor what you think about the doc by word of mouth, but not online. Gimme a break.

You know, if you’re a doctor and you can’t stand by what people think about your service, then perhaps you need to take a long, hard look at the way you’re doing things. Everybody other than cops, DMV employees, postal workers and bus drivers have to give a hoot about how they treat people. Only when doctors become government employees will they stop having to care about bedside manner. Oops, I guess that should be any day now. Well, until then, exercise your right to review online. Power to the people!

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