By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Some doctors are implementing a new legal measure to combat negative patient reviews.

By having patients fill out a Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy form, physicians are now able to obtain copyrights to patient reviews in exchange for protecting their patients’ information from marketing companies.

For critics of the practice like law professor, Jason Shultz, the forms are essentially a gag order.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

“What this supposedly does is whenever you write a review online…the doctor owns it,” says Shultz. “That gives them [the doctors] the right to take it down because they own it.”

Supporters of the forms, like Shane Stadler, insist that doctors have the right to protect their careers. Stadler, who works for Medical Justice, a company that sells the contracts to physicians, believes that the forms are necessary to help combat false and anonymous online reviews.

While patients have no legal obligation to sign the documents, Shultz says that many people feel pressured in the waiting room.

“They are usually handed out in a stack of HIPPA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] forms that you get when you walk into the Doctor’s Office,” says Schultz. “You are in a very vulnerable and costly position.”

Shultz and other free-speech advocates worry that if these contracts spread into other professions, online consumer reviews would become less reliable.

“You’ll only see things online that have been approved by the person, which is essentially advertising,” says Shultz.

For now,, a website dedicated to rating health care professionals is responding to the controversy with plans to release the names of all doctors using the documents. So far, the website has not listed any Massachusetts physicians.

Comments (7)
  1. sparknut says:

    The state does a poor job of disciplining doctors who mess up. Very few are every actually punished. Now they want to take away people’s right to complain. They still think they are gods.

  2. David says:

    For years, doctors have been able to write whatever they want in their patients’ records, sometimes with disasterous results, and no realistic recourse on the part of the patients. I have several clients who have lost their jobs and/or insurance, been cut off from necessary treatment, lost LTD payments, and been shunned by family due to false statements written in their medical records. One client even lost his job and insurance and had to move to Canada to get medical care! Some medical records falsified by doctors are just transcribing errors or honest mistakes and can sometimes be mutually resolved (though often requiring much effort on the part of the patient); others are motivated by greed (eg from HMO’s or insurance companies) or by an individual doctor’s ego. and similar sites at least give abused patients the opportunity to warn other patients from seeing an abusive doctor.

    Patient Advocate

  3. Stephen Rost says:

    Do not sign the Form.
    Revoke consent to this form in case you signed one.
    You have freedom of speech.
    We all have access to law.

  4. Joan Hogan says:

    I am Concerned about this ! Doctors for Many Years have had too much
    Freedom and Protections. This New policy protects BAD DOCTORS ! I would never sign this form , AS It Violates a patients rights, to freedom of speech.
    I had a negative experience from Robert Allen Hoch M.D. from Harbor Health Services. This Doctor was conducting a Study called ” MY Body My Story ”
    MY personal Information wasgiven out to Medical Students who would call my house, and my relatves houses to seek information , Yet I never gave permission for this to happen. Then These Medical Students would be pushy
    continuously calling me. I was never treated by DR. Robert Allen Hoch M.D. He
    was just a doctor from the facility were I got previous Medical Care . My Social
    Security number was also put @ Risk.

  5. RB says:

    Online consumer reviews have never been reliable by the very fact that they are…. wait for it… online. If you believe you got good information off of any review site, you really shouldn’t be using the computer. Being one of the worst offenders of all, Yelp! is the best example of why online reviews of anything are meaningless.

    I also work in medical billing and the number of times patients LIE is staggering. “I spoke to (Person X) this morning and she said I don’t have a bill.” “That person hasn’t worked here in over a year/is out sick/is on vacation.” The patient got the name from voicemail and tried to spin a lie. The other one is better, shortened over a series of calls: “My insurance said they’d pay…..They denied it? Then, uhhhhh I never had the work done and never agreed to it…..Oh, yeah, I did sign a form agreeing to the work, I agreed that I would pay and I even set up a payment plan and made multiple payments towards it already, but why should I have to pay?”

    1. Italo says:

      I believe this, RB. But it works both ways and the docs can lie, too. But if it’s about the “system” believing the doc or the patient, if the doc is not being or acting above-the-board, guess who the system is going to believe and side with…I’ll bet it’s not gonna be the patient or their advocate.

  6. Buddy says:

    You would have to be a fool to even consider siging one of these forms. I do suspect some reviews may be unjust but to simply give my Dr. control over an unbiased review is absurd. I do not believe everything I read and if I do find a Physician being unreasonable in some way I would indeed look them up to see what other have to say.

    I can, without a doubt form my own opinion but sometimes it’s nice to hear what others ave to say. To give control of this to someone other than the one writing the review would be quite stupid!

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