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Have You Been Blacklisted, Blackballed or Denied Medical Care?

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Updated June 20, 2013

Some patients complain they have been denied medical care, even reporting that they had appointments canceled after waiting to see a doctor. They believe they have been blacklisted or blackballed in some way, through a network of providers who share information about difficult, or difficult to diagnose or difficult to treat patients.

When a patient creates problems for her medical providers, whether she behaves poorly in the office, refuses to pay for services rendered, files frivolous lawsuits or doesn't comply with treatment but blames the doctor when her health doesn't improve, the doctor may decide he just doesn't want to treat that patient any longer.

At an extreme, there have been reports of patients being blacklisted or blackballed in some fashion. Try as they will, these patients cannot get a doctor to see them. Sometimes they must go out of state or leave the country to find care.

Some patients, believing they have been blacklisted, have taken their stories to the news media. Some have built websites and posted blogs. Do a search for "patient" and "blacklist" and you'll find links to them.

In 2003, a patient blacklist could be found online through a website called "Doctor's Know.Us." It claimed it was "plaintiff information for doctors" and the point was to alert doctors about patients who filed lawsuits, so those doctors could avoid them. Doctors paid a fee to join the site, and they could review lists of patients, or upload their own lists. A press release issued in March 2004 says the site was shut down. However, in 2009, it still exists, stripped of information, but still online.

When asked about the practice of blackballing or blacklisting, most healthcare professionals will deny any such system exists. Instead, some cite other means for denoting difficult patients in that patient's records. Others just say "everyone in our office just knows who they are."

Smart patients know that no one wants to deal with difficult people. Granted, there are many reasons we get frustrated and angry about the treatment we do -- or don't -- receive. Some patients feel they "deserve" to be disruptive or difficult, as if that is the only way they will get the help they need. Unfortunately, that disruption has just the opposite outcome.

Arming ourselves with creative and positive tools will go much further toward getting ourselves the help we need. We can't demand respect and expect to get it. We must command respect. Know the difference and approach your providers accordingly.

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Have you been blackballed or blacklisted, and therefore unable to make an appointment to see a doctor? Please share your story with others to help them avoid the same problem.

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