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, www.ratemds.com, 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.