Doctors' Orders: Don't Diss' Me on the Net!
0 comment Sunday, June 8, 2014 |
Most complaints against lawyers arise because the lawyer simply doesn't communicate. She fails to return the client's phone calls or keep the client apprised of the status of the case. Turns out, the same is pretty much true for doctors, too. It's called "bedside manner" and a bad one can spell big troubles for the doctor.
I've already written about my contentious encounter with a pediatric dentist. He wanted to put dental sealants on Mr. M's molars because his molars were "crevicey." Being a mom who is admittedly, and perhaps unreasonably, paranoid about BPA, I asked whether his sealant contained BPA. He then flew into a semi-controlled condescending rage.
After that adventure, I found a cobbled-together, poorly designed website where I could post a review about this grouchy fellow. Until today, I didn't know there were better, more organized sites, like, where patients can post online reviews about their doctors.
But the Washington Post reports that many doctors are up in arms about these doctor-rating sites. So upset, in fact, that some doctors are requiring their patients to sign "no criticism" agreements as a condition of treatment.
Indeed a cottage industry has apparently sprung up to help these concerned doctors. One business, Medical Justice, boasts over 2000 members. The company will prepare "don't 'diss me" contracts for the doctors to present to their patients.
The contracts are called "Mutual Agreements." Medical Justice will then monitor the "ratings" websites for negative comments about the doctor. If a patient has signed a "no complaint" contract but nonetheless posts a bad review, Medical Justice will ask the rating site to remove the comment.
Dr. Nancy Falk, quoted in the Washington Post article, says patients just aren't competent to evaluate their doctors. "The people least capable of judging quality of care are patients," she said. "They don't know what we know."
It is apparently Dr. Falk's view that since patients cannot judge "quality of care," these ratings sites are just the blind lead the blind. Although she appears more than eager to judge her patients. "I'd love to have a Web site where I could complain about patients," she tells the Washington Post. "All doctors would."
Alrighty then, Dr. Falk. But even the blind know when someone is rude, dismisses their questions, won't return phone calls, communicates important test results through the mail instead of by phone, and keeps them waiting interminably in the reception area.
On competence and skill, Falk has a point. But it's a small one. Because my fairly lengthy but unscientific sampling of comments at showed that first and foremost, what patients either exalted or bemoaned was the doctor's bedside manner, not his stitch-sewing skills.
Still, some of the comments are pretty ruthless. Here's an example:
She conducts herself in a very arrogant manner towards her patients. Details are too personal too share online. I have never written an online review but she definitly [sic] deserves one. I don't think she has been trained well enough to counsel patients when any medical issue arises. She does not make or receive phone calls. Totally obnoxious!!!! She is getting a very bad reputation around the city, even among other physicians. DO NOT pay for her services.Because of patient-privacy and internet "defamation" laws, doctors say their hands are tied, that they are powerless to respond.
And for some doctors, it seems these "no-tattle" contracts don't go far enough. They are taking a more aggressive stance. According to, some doctors are asking their patients to "rate" them online, right then and there in the doctor's office, before the patient goes home. This causes problems at because the site, understandably, doesn't accept multiple ratings from one single computer. I can only imagine what other problems a rate-me-right-now policy might cause.
While I sympathize with good doctors who suffer when anonymous false reviews about them are posted online, I also sympathize with people who are treated rudely by doctors whom they are paying to treat them.
Indeed, many malpractice claims might be avoided altogether, were the doctor just a little nicer, had a better bedside manner. Or apologized when he made a mistake. A little kindness and a little humility go a long way.
So perhaps patient-reviews of doctors -- which seem to focus almost exclusively on bedside manner -- may end up helping doctors after all.
What do you think?