Don’t write about your physician interaction online, ok? Dumb.

Some physicians are upset because anonymous patients are leaving (reckless? sniping?) comments on review sites like Angie’s List and Zagat’s.  Welcome to the internet.

The response?  They’re asking patient’s to sign what amounts to a gag order (waiver form) according to this Associated Press article.  Welcome to medicine.

Dumb. Really dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Why?  One of the sites that allows anonymous comments is going to create a “Wall of Shame” for physicians who use waivers.  A lawyer says the waivers likely will not produce successful results in a lawsuit anyway.  And if a patient really wants to share negative anonymous comments online, they will (despite a signed waiver).  It’s a snowball effect with bad outcomes.

What should a physician do?  Two possibilities:

  1. Change behavior so patients don’t have bad things to say.  Yes, there will be the occasional patient who is unhappy about everything.  They may even post a negative review online.  But when there are multiple patients saying the same things, it may be time to look inward.
  2. Embrace the long tail.  Ask all patients to review physician services.  Give them a business card (or an Angies’s form, pdf) or a list of reviewing sites to enable them to brag about how great the service is.  Get on the ratings sites and professionally respond to criticisms.  Build a page on Squidoo.  Write a blog.  Build a website. 

    Here’s the best advice, it’s from Seth and is especially pertinent:

    Google never forgets.

    Of course, you don’t have to be a drunk, a thief or a bitter failure for this to backfire. Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.

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