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Doctors try to stifle online patient reviews

Medical practitioners are increasingly asking patients to sign agreements confirming that they won't post any negative comments about their doctors on review sites or on blogs.

Dr. Jeffrey Segal has an interesting business. Called Medical Justice, it proclaims on its home page that it is "relentlessly protecting physicians from frivolous lawsuits."

One thing Medical Justice does in its march against frivolity is help doctors get patients to sign "Mutual Privacy Agreements." These appear to be documents in which the patient promises never to post anything negative about the doctor on review sites or blogs. (2,000 doctors are already using these agreements.)

There are many, many words on the Medical Justice site. And I tried to pay attention to them all. So if this review doesn't encompass all of the site's nuances, then I hope no one believes I have any malicious intentions to the profession that has saved me from many a peculiar affliction.

In essence, Medical Justice thinks there's a lot of utter twaddle written about doctors on review sites such as Yelp or Some of it is malicious. Some may possibly be written by scorned lovers, mad people in pink tights or, who knows, rival intoxicated physicians, rather than by real patients. (Medical Justice also helps doctors monitor comments on review sites)

So if doctor and patient can agree that the patient will not write anything nasty online then, at some point, a fairer system of rating doctors--perhaps along the lines of the J.D. Power and Associates model--might become a trustworthy reference for the good, the bad and the ogle-prone.

Here's the part that eludes me like the melody line of every TV On The Radio track. The site states: "'Mutual privacy' means that patients are granted additional privacy protections by the doctor above and beyond those mandated by law."

As I understand these words--and I am not a doctor and have never even played one on TV--if you promise not to go online with your unhappiness, the doctor will give you "additional privacy protections."

I cannot confirm that this doctor has spotted an unfair review around the next corner. CC AEU 04117

I thought I scoured the site more thoroughly than I scour my pans after a spaghetti bolognese, but I couldn't discover what these protections might be. In fact, I can't even imagine what they might be, as I assume doctors are supposed to be utterly silent about every wart, wrinkle, and third nipple they discover on your person.

Medical Justice does toss unhappy patients a somewhat sterilized bone: "Patients remain entirely free to communicate about their treatment with friends, family, other health professionals, hospitals, licensing boards, attorneys, civil court, and more."

This bone seems to make my blood pressure twitter a little. Isn't one of the reasons why review sites have risen like the alien from a routine tummy tuck that the solutions recommended by Medical Justice don't seem to deliver what some might describe as medical justice?

Like Medical Justice, I am all for a little sophistication when it comes to touching the truth. But isn't the problem of the medical profession that far more sophistication has been used to conceal the facts rather than reveal them?

My eyebrows are beginning to ache. I think I'll take I'll reach into my medical cabernet for a cure.