Consumer Affairs reviewers give Healthgrades, an online medical review site, a one star rating.

We found out why.

W. Lee wrote: “A negative review was posted about my practice by someone located in Plano, Texas. My practice is located in Delaware, and furthermore, there are no patients from Plano, TX in our computer database. I asked Healthgrades to remove the review, but was told I should solicit additional patients to write positive reviews. It was also suggested that I complete my profile. I refused to do either since this would only serve to legitimize their website.”

Elle also had a negative experience: “I googled myself and this site [Healthgrades] popped up. My personal information was listed in a field that I am not practicing or even licensed in. It is my home address, it is my home phone number and all my information is labeled as my office contact information. I’ve sent an email with no response and with these reviews, I doubt I will get one or my info removed. Someone please take this website down. I have no idea how they got my information, but I am upset that a site as unethical as this exists and apparently has existed for a few years now. None of the information listed about me is professionally related in any way at all.”

Call us naive, but we used to read online reviews and believed that if someone took the time to write a review, they probably were telling the truth or at the very least, accurately sharing their experience from their point of view. We also assumed that doctor information (office location, phone, specialty, etc.) were correctly listed.

But, can you really trust online reviews?

Apparently, not.

PsychCentral has posted before about online reviews. Yelp and Therapist Reviews, Reliability and Validity in a Web 2.0 World, Survey: Online Psychotherapy Reviews, etc.

In an earlier post here on PsychCentral, Dr. John Grohol writes about online reviews. “…what they really do is a pretty horrible job at getting at any useful or important information that you might use to make an informed decision about choosing your next therapist. And due to some of the choices these companies have made, it is almost impossible for a person to understand whether these reviews are in any way representative of the people the therapist treats.”

He’s right. And the problem is even worse.

Check back at the Therapy Soup blog on PsychCentral.com for Part II of Online Reviews Cannot Be Trusted. Really.

Continue to Part Two