Doctors Seek to Silence Patients Online
Before registering for classes each semester, many students consult the Web site RateMyProfessors to read student-written reviews of their potential teachers.
However, many doctors are attempting to prevent their patients from posting comments on similar sites focused on medical professionals, saying that undue negative ratings could destroy a physician's practice.
Sites such as RateMDs.com and Angie's List provide forums for patients to post comments or rate their doctors in such categories as punctuality, knowledge and helpfulness.
Many doctors and medical professionals now require their patients to sign waivers saying they will not post comments online regarding their doctors' performance.
The intention is that doctors could use the waivers to pressure Web sites to remove negative comments posted by patients who signed the form.
Many of the sites, however, refuse to remove their users' comments, citing First Amendment rights to free speech.
Though the American Medical Association has taken no official stance on the ratings Web sites, the general sentiment seems to be that the ratings should be seen as only one small source of input regarding a doctor.
Online reviews "should be taken with a grain of salt, and should certainly not be a patient's sole source of information when looking for a new physician," Dr. Nancy Nielson, president of the association association, told USA Today.