Docs Turn to 'Gag Orders' to Choke Bad Web Reviews

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2009 12:48 PM CDT
A doctor interviews a patient.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – An explosion of online forums for the discussion and rating of physicians has doctors fighting back, the Washington Post reports. Afraid of negative—perhaps spurious—reviews on the Web, some MDs are denying care unless a patient signs a non-disclosure agreement. Though opponents call the agreements “illegal, unenforceable, and silly,” others think them necessary in the “Wild West atmosphere” of the Internet.

Docs feel hamstrung because confidentiality bars them from responding to online slights. Opponents call the agreements “gag orders,” and at least one doctor doesn’t really disagree. “The people least capable of judging quality of care are patients,” says the physician, described online as “curt.” The founder of one rating site says there’s nothing new about the conversation; it’s just “moved online.” “Consumers have been talking about their experiences with physicians forever.”