A company called Medical Justice sells a program to doctors that "guarantees" they will not be rated on a doctor rating website. In effect, patients are forced to sign paperwork promising they will never submit information about that specific doctor on a doctor's rating website.
It still boggles my mind that doctors would pay money for such a program! First of all, any doctor that would rely on gagging patients should not be practicing medicine. Secondly, I can't imagine any court would rule in a doctor's favor if a patient did recount his/her experience about a doctor online. And third - OK - so maybe the patient doesn't post on a doctor's rating site. What if s/he blogged about the experience instead?
As you can imagine, I advised you not to sign any such paperwork. Of course, there's always the question of what to do if that doctor insists....
That aside... at the time, I also asked any of you, my readers, to let me know if you actually encountered one of these contracts, and if you did, to send me a copy..... well....
No - we didn't get a copy of that contract. But, one reader (who shall remain anonymous) did send me a contract she was told to sign called a "Physician-Patient Arbitration Agreement."
The bottom line of the contract is that, once signed, the patient promises that no lawsuits will be filed against that doctor (who happened to be an orthopedist). Instead, should a problem crop up, the patient would agree to "neutral arbitration" as described by the State of California. Then it spells out how that arbitration would be arranged.
The reader who sent it to me did not sign it. She asked whether signing it was a requirement before she could be seen by the doctor and learned that no, it was not.
In truth, I really don't blame doctors for trying to minimize the chance of being sued. Between the cost of malpractice insurance, the cost of defensive medicine, and the cost of frivolous lawsuits, these expensive, and more legal aspects of medical care have truly gotten out of hand. Arbitration may be a good way to minimize some of that cost.
However! (A BIG however!) -- I recommend you never sign one of these documents. First, your signature could not possibly improve the care you would receive, so there is absolutely no benefit to you from signing it. And second, because it's very likely that the reason a physician would ask you to sign it is because s/he, or perhaps someone else in his/her practice has lost a lawsuit before. These contracts are certainly not common, so why would a doctor even think to ask you to sign one?
There is a definite benefit to the doctor, but little or no benefit to the patient I can think of. Not that arbitration would be a bad idea. Depending on the circumstances, it could be quite positive. But you don't need to sign an agreement before treatment in order to choose arbitration later, if necessary.
Thanks to my anonymous reader for sending along a copy of this contract. If you find other strange or squirrely contracts in and amongst the paperwork you are given to sign when you visit a doctor, I would love to see a copy if you can send one along.
One other quick reminder -- when it comes to any paperwork you are given to sign before medical treatment, be informed before you give any consent.