The Story Behind the Anti-Review Contract
There have been several versions of Medical Justice’s anti-review contracts since they were first introduced to doctors several years ago. The end goal has always remained the same: censoring patients who give doctors reviews they don’t like. Below are some of the most common forms of the contracts.
The “Gag Order” Provision
Initially, the contracts prohibited patients from reviewing physicians in exchange for receiving medical services. Here’s the relevant language from one of those contracts:
“Federal and State privacy laws are complex. Unfortunately, some medical offices try to find loopholes around these laws. For example, HIPAA forbids physicians from receiving money for selling lists of patients or protected health information (PHI) to companies to market their products or services directly to the patients without their authorization. Some medical practices, though, can lawfully circumvent this limitation by having a third party perform the marketing . . . . Regardless of legal privacy loopholes, Physician will never attempt to leverage his relationship with Patient by seeking Patient’s consent for marketing products for others.
“In consideration for treatment and the above noted patient protection, Patient agrees to refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing commentary regarding Physician and his practice, expertise and/or treatment . . . . Physician has the right to equitable relief to prevent the initiation or continuation of publishing or airing of commentary regarding his practice, expertise and/or treatment.”
The “Veto Power” Provision
More recently, the contracts have forced patients to sign over ownership rights in online reviews. This clause allows the doctor to remove any review she does not like—in essence giving her veto power over a patient’s right to speak—despite contract language that says patients are free to review the doctor. Here’s the relevant language from one of those contracts:
“Physician has invested significant financial and marketing resources in developing the practice. Nothing in this Agreement prevents a patient from posting commentary about the Physician – his practice, expertise, and/or treatment – on web pages, blogs, and/or mass correspondence. In consideration for treatment and the above noted patient protection, if Patient prepares such commentary for publication on web pages, blogs, and/or mass correspondence about Physician, the Patient exclusively assigns all Intellectual Property rights, including copyrights, to Physician for any written, pictorial, and/or electronic commentary. This assignment shall be operative and effective at the time of creation (prior to publication) of the commentary.
“This Agreement shall be in force and enforceable for a period of five years from Physician’s last date of service to Patient. As a matter of office policy, Physician is requiring all patients in its practice sign the Mutual Agreement so as to establish that any anonymous or pseudonymous publishing or airing of commentary will be covered by this agreement for all Physician’s patients. Further, this Agreement will survive for a minimum of three years beyond any termination of the Physician-Patient relationship.”
The Combination Contract
Other versions of the contracts contain both the gag-order and veto-power provisions. Here’s the relevant language of one of those contracts:
“In consideration for treatment and the above noted patient protection, Patient agrees to refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing commentary upon Physician and his practice, expertise and/or treatment – the sole exceptions being communication to a confidential medical-peer review body; to another healthcare provider; to a licensed attorney; to a governmental agency; in the context of a legal proceeding; or unless mandated by law. Publishing is intended to include attribution by name, by pseudonym, or anonymously. If Patient does prepare commentary for publication about Physician, the Patient exclusively assigns all Intellectual Property rights, including copyrights, to Physician for any written, pictorial, and/or electronic commentary. This assignment is in further consideration for additional privacy protections provided by Physician. This assignment shall be operative and effective at the time of creation (prior to publication) of the commentary. Physician has invested significant financial and marketing resources in developing the practice. In addition, Patient will not denigrate, defame, disparage, or cast aspersions upon the Physician; and (ii) will use all reasonable efforts to prevent any member of their immediate family or acquaintance from engaging in any such activity. Published comments on web pages, blogs, and/or mass correspondence, however well intended, could severely damage Physician’s practice.”
Other Examples of Similar Contracts
Because the contracts have evolved over time, there are a wide range of examples. Here are a few others.
Found a copy of a similar contract? Send it to us
In order to document these tactics, we need as many copies of these contracts as possible. If you come across one while waiting to see your physician, or perhaps find one online, send it to us.