Thursday, July 8, 2010
Help Me Howard: Doctors Orders
Had a bad experience at your last doctor's visit? Well some physicians are trying to prevent you from talking about it. The Nightteam's Patrick Fraser warns us about these so-called doctor's orders.
WSVN -- If you are like many people, you want to know about your doctor or dentist before you get to their office, and if you go online you can learn a lot.
Look what we found written about South Florida doctors on various websites: "Wonderful front desk staff definitely masked the awful doctor you were about to see."
And: doctor is "completely unprofessional. Staff is also extremely rude."
Or this one: "Doctor is a 'complete moron.'"
Some patients are ripping their doctors online and now the doctors are fighting back.
Angie Hicks, Angie's List: "Healthcare professionals, doctors, are asking patients to basically sign waivers almost like a gag order, saying they won't speak about their experience with their doctor online."
Carol Milano: "I was kind of suspicious."
Carol Milano went to a dentist planning to get implants, until she read the "you can't talk about your visit" form.
Carol Milano: "I started thinking, 'What are they so afraid someone might say about them? And what is it they don't want me to find out.'"
Here is an example of what's called a "mutual privacy agreement." It says, the doctor agrees to "maintain privacy of patient as outlined in the HIPPA form." It goes on to say, "In consideration for treatment and the above noted patient protection, patient agrees to refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing commentary upon dentist and his practice."
In other words, I won't talk about you and you agree to not talk about me, but there is one flaw in that, says 7 news legal analyst Howard Finkelstein.
Howard Finkelstein: " HIPPA Federal Laws require that the doctor not talk about you, and if they do say something to someone about you, they face stiff penalties."
Howard Finkelstein: "The doctor can sue you for breach of contract, but I don't think the courts will uphold it. I believe they're going to rule that patient has the right to speak freely and especially this is information you want the public to know."
Today, about 200 doctors in Florida are requiring their patients to sign the forms.
A company called Medical Justice came up with the idea, they say, to help medical professionals defend their reputations.
A spokesperson from the company says the forms are designed to "provide doctors with legitimate legal tools to have posts removed," and they "are not imposing a gag order on anyone."
Angie Hicks: "All of the information comes from consumers."
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, which collects ratings from consumers and says these forms are absolutely an attempt at a gag order.
Angie Hicks: "I'm completely against these types of waivers. I would walk away from a doctor that's asking me to sign one of these things."
That's what Carol did.
Carol Milano: "I decided that I didn't want to sign something like this. I'm absolutely not going back to them. There's no way."
She lost a dentist. A dentist lost a patient, but at least she can still talk about it and not live by her doctor's orders.