The article linked below tells the story of Timothy Lee an average garden variety patient seeking a new dentist and being confronted with the “Medical Justice” patient contract as discussed here.
The agreement that Dr. Cirka’s staff asked me to sign on that February morning began by claiming to offer stronger privacy protections than those guaranteed by HIPAA, the 1996 law that governs patient privacy in the United States. In exchange for this extra dollop of privacy, it asked me to “exclusively assign all Intellectual Property rights, including copyrights” to “any written, pictorial, and/or electronic commentary” I might make about Dr. Cirka’s services, including on “web pages, blogs, and/or mass correspondence,” to Dr. Cirka. It also stipulated that if Dr. Cirka were to sue me due to a breach of the agreement, the loser in the litigation will pay the prevailing party’s legal fees.
This seemed fishy to me, so I asked for more information.
Well Timothy is not quite an average patient he happens to write a blog on technology and law. His blog article linked above discusses the issue in a fairly neutral manner including the legal issues and the enforceability of the Medical Justice contracts. He is of the opinion they are not binding (toothless). However the really significant item is that the patient found the whole issue so objectionable that he decided to seek another dentist.
Another significant issue is that it seems the dentist Dr. Ken Cirka did not really understand what the contracts said that he was asking patients to sign. If you follow the link there are plenty of comments, amid the usual comment rubbish the general opinion seems to be the dentist is not the bad guy but he was taken advantage of by Medical Justice.
This also relates to the sad story of Dr. Yvonne Wong who attempted to sue for damages after she received a negative online review. Not only did she loose the case but was ordered to pay the defendants legal costs of over $80,000.
On the one hand the free flow of information between patients and others should ultimately improve overall patient care. On the other hand as professionals our reputation is precious and there should be some way for us to protect ourselves from malicious negative reviews.