Docs Fighting Ratings War

March 25, 2009
Special Feature

Websites like Zagat�s and Angie�s List, which rate everything from restaurants to electricians, have long been popular with consumers. Now these sites are branching out to include patients� ratings of doctors.

Websites like Zagat’s and Angie’s List, which rate everything from restaurants to electricians, have long been popular with consumers. Now these sites are branching out to include patients’ ratings of doctors. These ratings are really no more than opinions, critics say, and don’t provide any real information about a doctor, such as his or her medical skills. Negative comments can also damage a doctor’s reputation and practice, but because of medical ethics and privacy laws, there’s little a doctor can do about them.

One company, Medical Justice, is helping doctors fight back, providing them with a standardized waiver agreement that asks patients to agree not to post online comments about the doctor, his/her medical skills, or the treatment they received. The company suggests that doctors ask all patients to sign a waiver and it will notify the doctor if and when a negative comment appears on a website. Armed with the signed waiver, the doctor can ask the website to remove the offending message.

Medical Justice says the waivers are not aimed at patients, but are designed to give doctors leverage against a website that’s carrying a negative rating. Since the company was founded two years ago, about 2,000 doctors have signed up and close to 20% of doctors who responded to a recent poll said they would consider using the waivers.