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Would You Sign A "Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy" With Your Doctor?

This blog is about empowering consumers. Recently, the MediaPost blog reported:

"In the five years since he co-founded, a site where patients rate their doctors, John Swapceinski has been threatened with lawsuits at least once a week... But, starting six months ago, the nature of the threats changed. That's when Swapceinski began hearing from doctors who said that reviews on the site violated contracts with their patients. Apparently, some physicians are now asking patients to sign agreements in which they promise they won't review their doctors online."

The Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy" contract (MAMP) is the legal ruse doctors use to stifle consumer discussion. It's name may sound harmless enough, but it isn't. It's an attempt to bully consumers and shut down sites like the site. I visit the doctor to maintain my health, not give up some of my online rights. And I suspect most consumers feel the same way.

"A company called Medical Justice has masterminded at least some of these agreements. The company, founded by doctor (and law school graduate) Jeffrey Segal, has signed up 2,000 physicians nationwide. Segal tells MediaPost that the majority of them ask patients to sign the privacy agreements."

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission solicits online complaints from consumers about a variety of topics -- including medical ID-theft, medical fraud and data breaches. This MAMP seems to contradict that. It'd be easy to say that these doctors don't get the social aspects of the Internet, and are guided by fear. the bigger issue is: what would you do if confronted by a doctor asking you to sign an MAMP?

Almost everyone I know participates in one or several social media sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.) where they discuss things online. Many products sites allow consumers to submit comments online. Same for cooking sites with recipes. Why should doctors be any different?

I think its fair to ask any doctor requesting a signed MAMP what the benefit is for the patient. Doctors and medical practices are already bound by medical privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for patients' Protected Health Information (PHI). So, what's the benefit for patients to sign a MAMP? Are these MAMP-using doctors offering anything in return -- like enhanced data security or discounted services? I think not. That's what makes a MAMP bogus.

And while you are visiting your doctor, you might ask him or her what their practice is doing to proect your sensitive personal information on medical records. A MAMP is worthless if the medical practice has poor or no data security methods in place.


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John Taylor


Defend My Identity

Wow...I'd be wary of any doctor who doesn't want patients discussing the quality of his or her care. Absent of social media sites, people have always shared reviews of doctors with others (who hasn't been asked by a friend for recommendations for a doctor or dentist?). I don't see how it's any different to get such recommendations online.

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