A Balanced Analysis of Medical Justice’s Leadership Role in Online Doctor Reviews
Since inception in 2002, Medical Justice has been the most visible advocate for physicians (and dentists) in the healthcare space. We don’t apologize for it. Having worked with over 12,000 doctors, we love working with talented doctors.
Have we ruffled any feathers? Of course. And some of those whose feathers we have ruffled have expressed their angst online. Here’s the story.
Medical Justice promoted various templates to prevent doctors from being slammed on the Internet. These templates were released in 2007, and various iterations existed until we retired them in 2011. We always believed our templates – from the earliest to the final iteration – were honest, ethical, and legal. 
In 2007, our organization, Medial Justice, released a template for our member doctors which frowned on online commentary. Let’s set the full record straight. Those agreements were tested as the first doctor rating sites emerged. Doctors had nothing to hide. Some of the most talented doctors in the country used them. These were doctors’ doctors. But, an honest assessment of early online review sites showed they were rife with noise – including anonymous reviews from competitors and disgruntled ex-spouses. Doctors were limited by HIPAA from responding. And most sites had 1-3 reviews per doctor, if at all, in spite of the average doctor seeing 1,000-3,000 patients each year. Online review sites needed to evolve their models to be responsive to their customers – patients.
That’s not the end of the story. Medical Justice publicly highlighted the challenges in balancing the legitimate rights of patients with the reasonable concerns of doctors. By spearheading this effort, a number of doctor review sites made their sites significantly more useful to doctors and patients. We helped propel the change. As the Internet has changed, our opinions and methodology evolved. The agreements were softened and ultimately retired.
In summer 2011, Medical Justice launched a better solution to “manage” a doctor’s reputation – eMerit. Why eMerit? The principals of Medical Justice were the first to survey and connect online reputation with patient safety and quality of care. Segal J, Sacopulos M, Sheets V, Thurston I, Brooks K, Puccia R Online Doctor Reviews: Do They Track Surgeon Volume, a Proxy for Quality of Care? J Med Internet Res 2012;14(2):e50. eMerit’s three-pronged approach is “Monitor, Respond, Promote.” One core component of the program is an iPad for patient reviews. This element provides greater transparency (patients are verified patients), enabling the means to get a statistical number of unfiltered verified reviews – providing the doctor with immediate patient feedback; and the public with a more representative picture of the practice. eMerit has been well received by both doctors and patients and is now a leader in the field of capturing patient feedback for online reviews.
The eMerit program was built from the ground up with compliance in mind. Our mission is different than traditional online reputation management companies. Our goal is to give the public a representational picture of the doctor’s practice (not a “sanitized” version). Consequently, we want to work with talented doctors. If a practice is delivering state of the art care, eMerit will highlight it. If a practice is hoping to improve, eMerit will help. Not surprisingly, we receive calls from clinicians who want us to “make their reputation look better” on the web. We cannot – and will not – whitewash a doctor’s profile. We do not filter reviews. If a doctor is not talented, eMerit is not a good fit. We spend time doing due diligence on those doctors seeking our help. Of course, if a doctor is talented, eMerit is a great fit. It will amplify the voice of his/her patients.
Next, one can tell quite a bit about an organization by its paying customers. We are proud of the members who support us year after year. We work with chairmen of academic departments, high profile doctors in the media, and the best of the best. We would be happy to provide names and all prospects should feel free to reach out to them to ask anything about us.
We are likewise proud of entities who endorse our mission and our programs. The list of endorsing organizations is long and a sampling is can be found at: http://www.medicaljustice.com/resources/endorsements/.
Our commitment to regulatory compliance is extensive. Medical Justice/eMerit focuses on maintaining fidelity to the letter and spirit of HIPAA. Medical Justice/eMerit also comports with FTC and Medical / Dental Board restrictions on advertising / reviews. Medical Justice/eMerit has met directly with Dept. Health and Human Services / Center Medicaid/Medicare Services and received a written green light for eMerit to coexist with existing hospital survey instruments.
Now to a couple of links about Medical Justice from organizations who feathers were ruffled. One asked the Federal Trade Commission to “investigate.” Did they? Nope. The FTC expressed no concern about the agreements (or anything related to Medical Justice). Zip. Nada.
So, there you have it. A couple of links about Medical Justice online do not tell the whole story. That’s precisely the same problem our member doctors have when the Internet tells a half story about their practice. We did something to solve that problem.
Our corporate culture, history, and deeds have delivered value year after year, done transparently and ethically. They have been, and will continue to be, our guiding principles.
 A summary of the legal basis for the agreements was published in peer-reviewed journal – Segal J, Sacopulos M, Rivera D. Legal remedies for online defamation of physicians. Jl Legal Medicine. 2009; 30: 349-388. More importantly, the validity of these template agreements was evidenced by Congress passing a bill signed into law in 2016 preventing the use of such agreements going forward. Why did Congress pass such a law? Because the agreements we recommended from 2007 to 2011 worked. They were perfectly legal. And effective. We retired them in 2011. By then, the online review space had evolved and we had a much better solution.