NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 24, 2010

Would you sign a contract at a supermarket checkout forbidding you to complain to friends and neighbors about its prices, services or products?  That is what some frustrated physicians are demanding their patients do, says Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason Magazine and

For example: 

  • Monitoring ratings and reviews on sites such as Trip-Advisor and Yelp is part of doing business for an ever-larger number of American companies.
  • Increasingly, patients are applying the same principle to medical services, rating their doctors on websites like Angie's List and  

The physician group Medical Justice has responded with contracts that aim to protect doctors' reputations by gagging patients.  Most legal analysts believe the agreements are unenforceable but they do make it less likely that patients will post a negative review, says Bailey. 

Physicians complain that they cannot counter undeserved online criticism because they are bound by federal privacy regulations.  Unable to get around the limits imposed by doctor-patient confidentiality, they are trying to establish patient-doctor confidentiality as well, says Bailey. 

Source: Ronald Bailey, "Medical gag orders: don't rate this M.D.," Reason Magazine, June 2010. 

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