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Doctors Seek to Quash Patient Ratings

Doctors don’t like getting bad reviews, and now they’ve possibly found an antidote. So far, about 1,000 physicians have asked their patients to sign a legal form promising not to “publish or air” any unfavorable information about the doctor’s care, manner or office staff. The waivers mainly target online ratings sites such as RateMDs.com and Zagat.com

“We think bad information is harmful,” says Shane Stadler, marketing director for Medical Justice Services, the Greensboro, N.C., company that developed the waiver language and began licensing it for a fee to physicians about two years ago. He characterizes the document as a “mutual privacy agreement” good for both doctor and patient.

But patient advocacy groups disagree. “It’s critical that the doctor-patient relationship be open and trusting,” says Jennifer C. Jaff, executive director of Advocacy for Patients With Chronic Illness in Farmington, Conn. “These waivers set up adversarial boundaries from the start.”

But will the waiver stand up in court? “Courts will not enforce contracts that violate public policy,” says John Weistart, a contracts professor at Duke University School of Law, who has reviewed the document. “So attempts by physicians to suppress evaluations by patients are very doubtful.”

Linda Greider is a Washington-based freelance writer.

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