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Will Your Online Review Result in a Fine From Your Doctor?

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Some battles over consumer free speech are having a dramatic effect on the law around medical privacy, at least in America, where thorny, complicated legislation raises all sorts of questions about what a doctor, a patient or an insurer can say in public. The latest scrutiny of laws like HIPAA relates to the simple practice of a patient posting something that they liked, or didn't like, about a doctor's office, online.

Careful What You Sign In many cases, the source of these legal challenges are the forms that you sign when waiting for service at your doctor's office. Hidden in some of these forms, often in fine print, are legalese rules governing 'disclosure' or, in other words, effectively muzzling you on what you can and can't say as it relates to your medical visit experience.

These agreements aren't a big deal unless you decide you want to submit an online review. When a negative review goes out, you may encounter an unexpected retaliation. In some shocking cases, providers have been known to threaten to sue patients with some going a few steps further as recently aired in the media. The charge? Breach of contract.

Patients Fight Back Patients who see 'fees' attached to their bills for public reviews that they have posted are not likely to pay up, and it seems that many of these cases are going straight to court, often in the form of counter-suits against a provider. It's likely that local courts will look favorably on the patient's right to express thoughts about providers with little regard for restrictive prior agreements on paper, especially since there's a good case to be made that these forms are signed under a specific kind of duress. But the issues do raise further challenges, about who can say what, and when. Now there's the question, batted around in law offices and other venues around the country, about whether a provider's response to one of these reviews might also violate medical privacy laws.

The eventual result is a situation where people just aren't sure what's allowed and what's not. And free speech experiences are fundamentally squashed. Read the fine print in any contract or consent form that a doctor's office wants you to sign. If you don't understand or don't agree with any portion, talk with your doctor before your exam. Continue to communicate proactively with your medical provider so that you will receive the care and service you deserve.

MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at

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