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Doctors To Patients: First, Do No Yelp Harm 581

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the mocha-latte-with-an-nda-please dept.
theodp writes "When he walked into the dentist's office, Ars Technica's Timothy B. Lee was looking for cleaner teeth, but was shown the door after expressing outrage at being asked to first sign a 'mutual privacy agreement' calling for him to transfer ownership of any public commentary he might write in the future about his experience to the good doctor. Lee reports that similar censorious copyright agreements are popping up in doctors' offices across the country. 'Doctors and dentists are understandably worried about damage to their reputations from negative reviews,' writes Lee, but 'censoring patients is the wrong way for doctors to deal with online criticism.'"
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Doctors To Patients: First, Do No Yelp Harm

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  • Streisand Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:25PM (#36241064) Journal

    Have these dentists never heard of the Streisand Effect? If anyone asked me to sign one of these I'd go right on Yelp and report it. Then everyone would know the professional in question has something to hide.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:30PM (#36241108)

    You should probably find another doctor or dentist.

  • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:34PM (#36241186)
    Many contracts are not legally binding. Many legal contracts contain unenforceable clauses. Lots of them are done intentionally, not for legal reasons but to bully the signer.
  • by zeroshade (1801584) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:35PM (#36241194)

    There is absolutely no 100% safe and effective medicinal treatment for anything. No matter what it is, there is both the possibility it might not work, might have a side effect, or what not. To claim that any medical treatment is 100% safe and effective proves that you are just shilling.

  • by eepok (545733) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:38PM (#36241246) Homepage

    While I don't agree with such contracts, I really can understand why doctors would want to use them.

    Back in the day (5-10 years ago), most doctor reviews were tempered by face-to-face interaction. "Hey Bill, how's your dentist?" -- "He's alright. Just ask to get gassed and all dentists are good, am I right?"

    But come the internet with pseudonymity (or at least obscurity), people have deemed themselves connoisseurs of consumption-- veritable professional critics of the utterly mundane.

    Yelp houses an asinine number of these people who will judge an entire business (small, large, chain, etc.) on single experiences. Their words will be filled with praise or disdain. Hate or Love. They photograph EVERYTHING, photograph and compare perfect omelets, critique the crispness of lettuce in salads, comfort of chairs in waiting rooms, and even banter of workers.

    They scrutinize everything mundane because the quality of service and products are so similar, there's NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT otherwise. They polarize their opinions with "Avoid this place!!!" and "YOU MUST TRY THIS PLACE OUT!" and given the following on sites like Yelp, it actually affects business.

    And it's not as though histories of reviews can be wiped. I know of one small bike shop that was, understandably, railed for its elitist attitudes towards budget bikes. When new management came in (bike hippy instead of Lycra-rider), the Bike Shop itself changed, but it still had to fight 3 years of bad reviews on Yelp.

    I really don't blame doctors for attempting this route. There are better ways to go about it, though.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:40PM (#36241276)

    That's not true. My health insurance company doesn't cover treatments which aren't backed by evidence. Which means that while they will cover complementary care of a certain type, they don't necessarily cover all of the services that the specialty provides. And there have been several cases in recent years where medicines pulled by the FDA were never covered because they didn't have sufficient evidence to back them.

  • by mr1911 (1942298) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:46PM (#36241360)
    It would be unenforceable. You would have been forced to sign under duress to seek potentially life saving treatment, if you were able to sign at all.
  • by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:47PM (#36241382) Journal

    cervical (neck) adjustments

    Ok, I'm finally convinced. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. You're unquestionably a troll.

    Even a chiropractor would know the difference between a clavicle and a cervical adjustment.

  • by bws111 (1216812) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:51PM (#36241430)

    A contract can not make you do something illegal. There is nothing illegal about saying 'I won't talk about you.'

    More importantly, the Constitution says only what the government may, may not, and must do. It says nothing about what individuals may, may not, or must do. You have no 'constitutional rights' when dealing with another non-governmental entity.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:53PM (#36241466)

    He is a troll and you are ignorant.

    Demons of stupidity be gone from this man, rAmen!

    Educate thyself: []

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:56PM (#36241500)

    You would have to go to court and spend thousands of dollars you may not have to fight such a thing.

    Legal or not, the mere cost of fighting it will silence many people.

  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:58PM (#36241528) Homepage Journal

    I almost never do this with my real name. It can be my pseudonymous yelp, google, etc. account. No doctor would be able to know that some nick is my real name.

    See, that's what I was thinking. Then I re-read the description of the agreement. The patient is turning over all copyrights to future reviews to the doctor. If the doctor has one of these documents signed by EVERY patient, then he can petition the review site (Yelp) to remove negative reviews because he would claim to have copyright ownership of those reviews purportedly written by patients with anonymous names.

    People posting in this thread about signing away right to free speech, etc. have only skimmed the summary without understanding this is assigning copyright ownership of future reviews to the doctor. There is no surrender of free speech. It's saying the doctor owns the content the patient may produce as a result of the service. It's the same as a journalist working at a newspaper. The newspaper owns the copyright to all articles created by its staff. Sure, it's backassward and a powergrab on the part of whatever doctor is trying to use this to suppress negative ratings.

    Should it ever go to court, it would be unlikely to hold up, but I doub't an outfit like Yelp would resist a formal letter with some attached photocopies of some signed legal-sounding agreements. They'd probably yank the criticism from the site and then offer to sell some ads to the doctor in the same conversation.

    Don't forget, Yelp isn't selling anything to the users. Yelp's customer is the doctor.


  • by rotide (1015173) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:00PM (#36241572)

    I'm not sold on this. If I was a dentist, lets say, and I want good reviews, I'll ask my customers to please rate me on such and such a site. You will _always_ have bad reviews and as a person who frequently reads reviews, I know how to filter out good and badly written reviews. If there are 10 great reviews and one complaining that the service wasn't covered under insurance or something like that, I wouldn't hold it against the dentist.

    What's even more interesting, is that I actively seek out the bad reviews. When it comes to game reviews, for example, I go to the compilation sites like gamerankings etc, and purposely read the reviews that rated the game the worst. You can tell a lot about a game by the way the critical reviewers tear it apart. Maybe they only gripe about the graphics or something that just doesn't matter to me. If that's all they can muster, I can usually count on a quality experience.

    Same happened when I was searching for a new dentist. The one I picked had some negative reviews, but they all boiled down to "while they were friendly and made you feel at ease.. (some complaint about money here)." So the negative review may or may not hurt "my" dentist in the long run, but I picked him because of the CONTENT of those negative reviews. The worst thing people could say was some of the stuff he did didn't end up covered fully under their particular insurance plans, that sucks, but it's your job to make sure the work will be covered before submitting to it!

    In the end, the ones that censor reviews, usually have a reason why they fear them.

  • by spun (1352) <> on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:01PM (#36241584) Journal

    Don't you hate it when inferior people get all uppity and attempt to judge their betters? They should just mindlessly consume what they are told to and spare us their worthless, inferior opinions.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:03PM (#36241612)

    I kind of understand where these Dentists are coming from. I used to work at a pool construction company that was heavily impacted by unwarranted negative reviews online.

    Pool owners are the worst; they're usually well off, used to getting their way, and generally don't understand how construction time tables work. They usually start thinking of a pool in March, or April, and want it done and open for Memorial Day or the 4th of July. They usually don't understand we have more than one customer who all also want their pool done on the same timeframe. Further, they don't understand we can't work in bad weather, which means time tables tend to slip in the rainy season.

    So inevitably, people get delayed and it's the end of the world for them because they won't have their pool open for their all important Memorial Day BBQ. So they fly online and rant and rave about how awful our business is, because they couldn't read their contract. And of course, if you type our name into Google, the first three results that come up are from or a similar site.

    What's worse is these stay online forever. We've made most all of our customers happy in the end, and they've told us they would take down or redact the negative reviews, but even they can't. So because they flew off the handle despite our goodwill efforts, we're the ones that have to suffer.

    So, while I feel like the Doctor's approach isn't the most tactful, I understand where he's coming form.

  • by jandrese (485) <> on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:39PM (#36242102) Homepage Journal
    When you seek out bad reviews, don't you tend to find a whole lot of ones where someone is stuck reviewing a genre they don't like or have some weird complaint that doesn't affect the game properly? I tend to see that a lot on places like Metacritic. If you look up StarCraft II and the review complains about how annoying it is that you're controlling little people instead of getting down in the action and shooting stuff personally, and how using the keyboard and mouse are too complicated, well, I think it was just the wrong reviewer for the job.
  • by ibpooks (127372) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:45PM (#36242172) Homepage

    The difference though is that, unlike other businesses, doctors are legally forbidden from disputing bad reviews. HIPPA (U.S. patient privacy law) doesn't even allow doctors to acknowledge that a particular person was in fact a patient, let alone specifically addressing the elements of his complaint. This creates an unfair situation whereby patients (or even fake patients) can say whatever they want about the doctor and he cannot legally confirm or deny any of the allegations against him without acknowledging the person was a patient.

  • by dbarron3 (1659841) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:47PM (#36242208)
    I did RTFA. (yesterday, actually). A better subtitle might have been: "Scummy legal group duping doctors to request legally-unenforceable waivers from patients. Don't get caught in the loop." Doctors (or their business managers) need to be educated about why these waivers are unnecessary, unenforcable, and just bad business. Patients need to be informed and willing to fight back so this type of legal chicanery dies a quick death.
  • by rotide (1015173) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @03:46PM (#36243016)

    Ya, I do run into that a lot. But that's why I don't mind the bad reviews. If you put up a review that casts a negative light on something and I read that review, if I come out of that thinking your negative points were superficial and not really relevant (or to your point, just bashing the genre or controller they don't like), I'm going to think wow, that was a negative review, and that's all they had to say about it? That in my mind HELPs the game/product/service.

    Then again, if the bad reviews are well thought out and bring up really good points, say, the doctor likes to make up things you don't believe you have (had those before) or puts the sales pitch on you for whitening, etc, or maybe fondles you while you're out, ya, ok. Those I could see doctors wanting to control, I mean, those would be bad for business. But general negative reviews with no real basis in practical reality, so what? No one has a perfect record (even if they did, I'd be suspicious). Let the negative reviewers speak their peace and let the positive ones drown them out.

  • +5, fuck yelp. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @05:15PM (#36244050) Homepage Journal

    Doctors should be worried, because yelp can be gamed, and they'll let the gaming happen if it's in their best interest... An anecdotal story.

    I've work in a karaoke bar the last 10 years. This is before American Idol made it go crazy popular. FF>> to a few years ago...

    There was a local karaoke company (this is multiple individuals, not one guy in a bar like me) who were tired of all the good press, yelp reviews, and awards our place has gotten over the years. They'd play favourites with karaoke singers to gain favour with them, then have them write negative reviews about our place (without even having set foot ONCE in there)

    Around the same time yelp starts calling, "We can sort those bad reviews to the bottom of the list for $400@mo" I'd be on the phone with these jackasses for hours, saying these reviews were bogus, and how dare you try and extort money from us...

    Few days later, bad review start floating to the top. The little "soundbites" (don't know what else to call them, the little highlighted bits of reviews at the top) started being nothing but negative.

    I got tired of it. Being the old school dickhead BOFH that I am, I started dropping dox weekly on our website of yelp employees one by one(upper level management mostly, was leading up to stoppleman). Sure, I'd get threats, but I'd just give them the same bullshit answer they gave me, "Hey, it's publicly available info man, just like you guys told me!"

    One day the owner's son (of where I work) came down to talk to me. He said, "Dude, I know these guys, they got a lawyer full time on staff, they just gotta drop this off on their desk and say "attack". Please, take down the docs.

    So I did. And magically these dickheads reviews got sorted, or deleted.

    Moral of the story is, yelp is fucking corrupt. If your competitor wants to slander you on yelp, you have 0 recourse without full legal action. Fuck you yelp, go suck a dick. (and yes I probably typed something similar before)

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