Bioethics Discussion Blog: Negative Comments About Doctors on the Internet: Name Names?

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Negative Comments About Doctors on the Internet: Name Names?

This is an issue, I have noted on several threads on this blog. Should blogs and other internet lists and sites publish negative comments about doctors presumably by their patients or former patients identifying the doctor by name? Though it is true that there is an apparent unbalance of “power” between the physician and the patient with power directed to the physician and that the patient should have the right to comment. Unfortunately, the right to comment seems may lead to injustice since the physician is limited by federal regulations (HIPAA), preventing disclosure of personal patient information, to return comments and defend their actions or outcomes.

Read the current article by Associated Press writer Lindsey Tanner titled “Docs seek gag orders to stop patients' reviews” and express here what you think of doctors attempting to “gag” bad publicity as directed to specific named physicians. As with all of my threads on this blog, write clearly, fully and with civility but don’t name names! ..Maurice.

10 Comments:

At Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Mary said...

As a patient, I have to admit that I have accessed a couple of these rating sites, not to vet any future doctors, but out of curiosity. One of my doctors had 8 ratings, 4 of them critical ("disrespectful, rushed appointments, insensitive, rude staff") more surface complaints than clinical judgments. As his patient for 5 years, I didn't find any of these negative observations to be valid, in my case anyway. Of the 4 glowing ratings all gave the doctor a '5' (highest rating) for promptness. This stuck out like a sore thumb because of over 50 appointments with this doctor my wait time has never been less than one hour. It made me suspicious that the positive reviews were probably written by office staff or family/friends of the doctor to counter the negative ones. So maybe both negative and positive reviews should be taken with a grain of salt.

I think doctors should give some credit that people will see through a lot of these comments as anecdotal written by patients with a personal ax to grind, and not related to the doctor's skills. Also, it wouldn't hurt if the offended doctors looked within to see if perhaps some of the complaints were indeed grounded.

As for a doctor insisting I sign a gag order as a condition to treat me, my trust in him would plummet. I would immediately think he had something to hide.

I can't imagine that airing in public that you don't like your doctor, lawyer, political representative, or anyone else in a profession needing the public could be banned without a legal challenge. Does an actor have grounds to sue a reviewer who thought his movie was lousy? Could he argue that any negative review could influence people not to buy a ticket, thus depriving him of his livelihood. Where would it stop?

 
At Wednesday, March 04, 2009 3:07:00 PM, Blogger FridaWrites said...

In answer to your question, I'd say anonymity depends on context. On this kind of blog or on my own, I would have no wish to name physicians since it's the situation that's relevant and not the particular person.

In terms of review sites, this isn't limited to doctors. Professors and college instructors also receive this kind of feedback--and these can verge on or be outright racist and sexist or simply untrue. I do think that people can recognize that a single review must be taken in a bigger context. I do think people do need to have accountability in making sure they are not making slanderous and untruthful comments or being vengeful, but physicians need to respect that people are allowed to hold their own opinions. Not everyone's going to be happy all of the time, and people who are unhappy are often more vocal. To balance this out, doctors can proactively develop their own webpages with selected positive feedback from happy patients. But if there's a recurrent criticism, maybe there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Doctors can also ask patients by survey for constructive feedback, not that every wish can be accommodated (just as in teaching). We all need to improve and change over time, in most any profession, and constructive feedback can help with that.

Attempting to place gag orders on patients reinforces public conception that medicine is patriarchal and controlling. And it shows a lack of perspective, the number of patients doctors receive by positive recommendations from other patients.

I do know one woman who mentions her doctors in her blog, but she's terminally ill and has multiple times been denied basic medical care and referral to specialists. These physicians have acted in a particularly negligent way and should be held accountable. This is in Canada, where medical lawsuits are not permitted and there's no real accountability. But this is an exception.

I do see some physician bloggers who provide too much information about patients with rare diseases or outcomes who may be recognizable by the co-morbidities. Responsibility works both ways.

 
At Thursday, March 05, 2009 6:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've posted to these rating sites and used them to research doctors before. I use them the same way I use other rating systems such as Amazon, etc. A lot of negative reviews earns my caution.

I have noticed some duplicate posts, the same as with other ratings systems. False positives reviews are harder to spot, but I'm sure they are there as well.

As far as "fairness", I think it is as fair as any other way we share information as a society. I don't know cars, but I have a general sense of how good my mechanic is, and let other people know, including using online ratings. I don't see why my physician should get treated differently than everyone else.

That said, if better information was available to me as a member of the public (the national practitioner database, etc), I would use it instead of other means to decide where to go with my business.

De

 
At Friday, March 06, 2009 3:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see nothing wrong with these sites. There has been legal review of this and all that I have heard the public has a right to do this and the doctor can not bring legal remedy. I think many doctors are now suddenly offended that a patient can and will rate them! How dare they! People rate services in every other walk of life so why shouldn't they be able to rate the service of a healthcare provider. I also agree with the other comment that some of the annonymous comments that defend and praise are no doubt wives, office staff, etc.

The whole experience of going into a doctors office involves customer satisfaction from the front desk on. Doctors should care enough to seek out this information from their patients on their own. Why not they themselves issue a survey? We get calls from auto repair dealers, investment firms, and the like. Why should doctors feel they are above it all?

 
At Friday, March 13, 2009 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Lucille said...

Having rated doctors on these sites and published blogs and websites describing my personal experiences with doctors I have named, I am a bit bothered by the anonymity factor.

However, having exposed my true identity online in relation to my comments about certain doctors, I know from experience that revealing my identity has gained me the unfortunate position of becoming a "blacklisted" patient.

I feel the rating sites are beneficial and people are smart enough to discern false negative ratings as well as those planted by the doctor, his staff and family.

If these rating sites allowed users to contact each other privately for more detail, that would provide more accurate information by which one may make an assessment.

 
At Thursday, August 06, 2009 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

DB wrote the following today but I am deleting the specific references. This action on my part may give my visitors a view of my opinion on the subject of the blog.
Attempting to avoid specific negative references would particularly valid for a bioethics discussion blog where views of both sides should be presented, not just one side. What I would suggest DB to do is instead of broadcasting the negative behavior of the staff to the world on my blog, DB should report the behavior to that "great" doctor. ..Maurice.


I'm a patient at the XXXXXX in XXXX. And i would first like to say that the office is brand new and great,but looks can be deceiving. My doctor is great but the staff is extremely unprofessional. I was in the office waiting to see the doctor and the ladies at the front desk were dicussing offensive topics that would make you want to wash there mouths out with soap.It was the most unprofessionalism I have ever seen, when entering a place of business.

DB

 
At Monday, May 23, 2011 8:13:00 AM, Anonymous Robert Finney PhD said...

California Managed Care Department-Kaiser Permanente Gag Patient Speech

Original investigation on government-Kaiser scheme to impose prior restraint on patients’ speech to destroy the doctor-patient relationship is posted on
http://www.hmohardball.com/Writ-GIN024734_2b001.pdf and www.hmohardball.com
Robert Finney PhD

 
At Wednesday, August 24, 2011 4:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think doctors should give some credit that people will see through a lot of these comments as anecdotal written by patients with a personal ax to grind, and not related to the doctor's skills. Also, it wouldn't hurt if the offended doctors looked within to see if perhaps some of the complaints were indeed grounded.

Regards,
Cliff Merchant MD

 
At Monday, April 23, 2012 9:30:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Sue submitted this posting with the doctor's full names and locations. I think it is of interest to read what she wrote but I did have to edit out the names. ..Maurice.


Dr.A almost killed me. I went to this dr. for four years and when I asked him to operate on me, he told me and my daughter "that the risks outweighed the benefits". I promptly found a new dr.B who commented "that he was sick and tired of getting dr.A rejects", but he operated on me, it was cancer and he saved my life. I totally recommend B over dr. A as he will not operate on women who are overweight and in midlife. Sue Harris

 
At Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:49:00 PM, Anonymous James William said...

Iam feel the rating sites are beneficial and people are smart so enough to discern false negative ratings as well as those planted by the doctor,his family and his staff and his friends...

 

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