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Are You a Blogger? No Medical Care for You

Posted on : 04-03-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media

3

Driving in today I heard an associated press report that really had me concerned.  Many businesses have tried to find ways to change perception about their brand, sometimes going as far as creating fake reviews, such as the Belkin example.  But now some doctors are trying to influence reviews by making it part of their contract for care that patients can not rate their service.  Read the story “Docs Seek Gag Orders to Stop Patient Reviews.”  I think I feel a groundswell coming!

Do you see a day where everything we buy comes with a contract or terms of use forbidding talking about the business?  What if it was changed to say you can only say positive things, but not negative?  Is this going to change the game?

This practice will cause multiple issues for businesses, including doctors.  Lets look at a few:

  • Not Allowing the Positive Groundswell – If you are doing things right, your own Customers will come to defense of any negative commentary.  By having a rule like this they would be afraid to
  • Negative Commentary will Still Happen – If someone had a bad experience they will want to tell the world and rules like this will not stop it.  The web can be a very anonymous place.
  • Groundswell Just for Having the Rule – What I think will really happen is people will start tracking organizations that create rules such as this and advise everyone not to use them

This is a slippery slope.  I am not surprised it is being done, and I am actually surprised it has not been done by others.  This is being done by people who are short sighted and uninformed about the groundswell within social media.  If there is a fear of this discussion the best options are to create the right experience the first time, but also find ways that Customers, oh I mean patients, can provide feedback to your business.  Then take this feedback and take action to improve when possible.

This is personal for me because I have used the web to share thoughts on medical care and my child.  I elected not to share all the negative stories, to which we have many, but that was my decision and not one forced on me.   There are great organizations to help families share the course of treatment on the web, such as Caringbride.org.  Will policies like this be so restricted that families would not be able to communicate in the way they prefer? Or will it censor what they can say?  Could a website like Caringbridge.org be sued because someone said something negative about a doctor?

To the defense of the docs, they are not permitted based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (better known as HIPAA) to discuss private patient information with anyone except the patient (and their insurance carrier) without written consent from the patient.   So they most likely would not be able to defend wrong information being written about them or clear any misconception.

I think it is time for some people to get past their egos and stop trying to prevent what will occur no matter what the legal mumbo jumbo has to say.  What do you think?

UPDATE:  While I was writing this the Consumerist posted “Warning:  Going to the Doc? Be Sure You Don’t Sign A Gag Order.”  In the post they talk about how RateMDs.com will create a wall of shame for doctors using the gag order.  Let the groundswell begin