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Doctors Don't Like Ratings Systems Any More Than Lawyers

Doctors and lawyers may go head to head when it comes to the debate over medical malpractice, but they stand united in one regard: Neither profession is all that receptive toward client or patient ratings systems. But whereas lawyers responded to Avvo's proposed rating system with lawsuits alleging violations of consumer protection laws, doctors are using intimidation. According to the Washington Post, some doctors are requiring patients to sign broad agreements that prohibit online postings or commentary in any media outlet without prior written consent.

Ron Miller of the The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog doubts that such agreements would be enforceable. But legal issues aside, Miller doesn't see these agreements as a very wise practice since they raise questions about a doctor's conduct (as in, "Why wouldn't this doctor want to be rated?") as soon as the patient sets foot in the office. On the other hand, Miller is also disconcerted by the fact that commenters can post about a service provider with limited accountability, anywhere across the Internet.

For John Bratt of Baltimore Injury Lawyer Blog, ratings systems are part and parcel of being in a customer service profession. He writes:

The problem here is that all professionals, including doctors and lawyers, are in a customer service industry. It's true that a layperson may not really have the knowledge to asses the quality of medical or legal services. On the other hand, it is easy for the average person to judge whether the staff is friendly or rude, wait times are unreasonable, if phone calls are returned promptly, or if facilities are clean and well-kept.

As with lawyers, it seems that doctors can't stymie the emergence of ratings systems. A post today on The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reports that a nonprofit called Consumers' Checkbook is launching the latest effort to let patients rate their doctors. According to the group's founder, the site is trying to distinguish itself from other ratings systems by, among other things, surveying patients and allowing doctors to review results before they are publicly posted.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 22, 2009 at 05:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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