Complaints Against Doctors Online

The Washington Post has an article today about doctors who seek pledges from their patients not to complain on websites about the health care services they receive.

Let’s set aside the obvious for a second that these agreements are very unlikely to be enforceable, either legally or practically. First, wouldn’t you be embarrassed to ask? I think expressing concern before a patient has so much as opened their mouth and said, “Ahhhhhh” just gets the doctor-patient relationship off on the wrong foot.

Still, it is disconcerting that anyone can leave—with no filter—any comment that they want about anyone, be it on Facebook or some other social network, or reviews of doctors and lawyers. Psychologically, it takes a lot of positive comments to make up for one negative review. I was looking at which Kindle to buy recently and Amazon gives you all the consumer reviews, including the one that other consumers found the most helpful. Both Kindles I was looking at received positive reviews. But I could not help but focus on the few negative minority reports that I read.
The Washington Post article points to the online reviews of one Washington, D.C. internist who has nearly 40 comments on one website, most of which are negative, “focusing on his off-putting demeanor, dirty office, and hostile staff.”
The smart money says the likelihood is that the doctor and his staff do not have good bedside manners and the doctor’s office is dirty. If I read these reviews as a prospective patient, I would not go to that doctor. But what if all the negative comments are all posted by the doctor’s archenemy from high school who wants to even the score? I doubt it. But is it possible? Yes. Does it happen? Absolutely.

But what is the solution? It is great that so much information is just a Google search away. It has changed all of our lives. The “archenemy from high school” scenario is just a bad byproduct of the information age that largely seems unavoidable.

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