Be careful what you sign at the doctor's office
One of our basic rights as United States citizens — to speak freely — is in jeopardy.
In a small, but scary trend, a growing niche of health care providers are requiring patients to sign away their rights to comment openly, anonymously, publicly and privately about the level of service they receive from physicians — good or bad.
Patients, especially first-timers, are often deluged with forms to sign when they enter a doctor's office. In our research, we've found some of these "mutual privacy" agreements conveniently located at the end of the stack.
So, even if you've had a great experience and you want to share that information on a forum where cancer patients or expectant mothers gather to chat — or even with your friends and family — you are prevented from doing so if you sign this waiver.
Well, we're completely against any attempt to stifle free speech. Consumers — or patients — should be free to discuss any experience they've had with a service provider.
One of the biggest concerns from some in the medical community is that online rating services are filled with anonymous and critical reviews of doctors. As an Angie's List member, you already know we take the integrity of our data very seriously, and we've invested a lot of time and resources into protecting it. We began rating health care providers in March 2008 in response to demand from members, and we have nearly tripled the number of medical categories we offer, from around 50 to more than 140.
We don't allow anonymous reviews and we hold you accountable to follow our reporting guidelines, which include an affirmative statement that the information you're sharing is your firsthand, truthful experience. We have technologies in place to continuously monitor for attempts to stack the deck for or against any provider. We encourage providers to respond to reports, and we have a complaint resolution process through which we intercede when there are problems.
One interesting note is that the majority of the medical reports we've received thus far — and we're averaging about 10,000 per month — are positive. Angie's List members are generally interested in sharing information that is useful for other members, and the fact that we don't allow unattributed reporting minimizes that "anonymous slamming" effect.
You turn to Angie's List to find good providers, and many providers have built their business on word of mouth from Angie's List members. Doctors should have a similar experience. If you're a good doctor and treat your patients with respect, there's more for you to gain — at least from a trusted and reliable source like Angie's List — than to lose.
For our part, we will continue to support your right to free speech and post the reports you want to give us.