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It seems there’s a bit of controversy over whether or not online physician reviews are right for the healthcare industry. 

Some physicians argue that online reviews can unfairly tarnish one’s hard-earned reputation, perhaps by patients who may have never even stepped foot into a physician’s office.  Patient advocate groups however, claim that online physician reviews provide patients with an ever-important venue through which to help others make wise decisions about whom they seek for care.

Not without flaws, I do think that online physician reviews are a good idea.  There’s a number of reasons for this, but atop the list lies simply our first amendment.  We are free to speak our minds, and within this falls our ability to use the Internet to tell others of how great or how lousy our doctor (or auto mechanic) may be.  This right can obviously be perverted by a physician’s competitor who decides to leave an anonymous bad review, or by a non-patient who wishes to defame the reputation of a physician with whom she or he holds an unrelated grudge.  Well, guess what…the same can be said for any other facet of the information age in which we live, and restricting speech to prevent the misuse of this important and empowering technology is itself a perverted notion.

Some physician groups advocate that physicians should enter into contracts with their patients that would prohibit the use of online reviews for rating said physicians.  I strongly disagree.  The physicians cite privacy as the rationale for this tactic, implying that the patient-physician relationship should be one of two-way confidentiality.  As a physician won’t speak of the encounter with others, nor should the patient.  This misses the entire point of patient confidentiality, which protects us [as patients] from the disclosure of our most personal medical conditions to others without our consent.  In no way should this reciprocally protect a physician from providing bad service or subpar medical care.

As a physical therapist and business owner myself, I understand the rules of engagement for my business and/or clinical behaviors.  I also understand that others may not play by the same rules, and have the potential to use tools such as online review sites unfairly against me or any one of my clients.  This doesn’t stop me from doing business though, and doesn’t give me cause to require that anyone that I do business with adhere to a set of restrictive rules that limit their ability to speak openly about their dealings with me.  It’s what I signed up for when I became a licensed provider, and it’s what I signed up for when entered into business.

This topic is widely debated and I appreciate the opportunity to share my view here.  I’d love to hear from others who have different viewpoints either directly through our contact page, or by commenting to this post.

For a great video from ABC News on the topic of online physician reviews, visit Grading Doctors Online – ABC News.

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Tannus Quatre PT, MBA is a private practice consultant and principal with Vantage Clinical Solutions, Inc., a nationwide healthcare consulting and management firm located in Bend, OR and Denver, CO.  Tannus specializes in the areas of healthcare marketing, strategy, and finance, and can be reached through the Vantage Clinical Solutions website.