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Online Reviews Cannot Be Trusted. Really. Part II

Contd. from Part One

Our Fraudulent Online Review Story at HealthGrades

C.R. went to specialist last year. He was excellent, one of the best healthcare professionals in her experience. In addition to a host of awards, and doing very good work, he had a warm and informative bedside manner. But during a follow up-visit, he told her he was struggling with a negative online review that was causing him to literally lose sleep. Apparently, a disgruntled patient spun a fantastic tale of incompetence, rudeness, and “emotional malpractice.”

As patient advocates (see our book, Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better and Move On) we tend to side with patients, but we had several visits this doctor, have referred others to him, all of whom had superb experiences, and this person’s story just didn’t quite ring true. The doctor she described was a monster, but to us he really was a dedicated professional who had a pleasant, even warm, demeanor.

After hearing this, C.R., with her journalistic radar pinging, decided to see if we had hostile reviews.

C.R. writes: It didn’t take me long to find out. On Healthgrades I found a one-star review for Richard.

Here’s where the saga bizarre scam gets weird.

Fraud? Libel? A Catch-22 Designed To Force You To Legitimize A Scam

Here’s what the review said:

The reviewer saw Richard at an office in Brooklyn.

This was Richard’s private practice.

Richard pushed medication.

He also said Richard worked at correctional facilities.

Here are the facts:

Richard doesn’t have an office in Brooklyn. He works as the director of an outpatient program in another borough.

Richard hasn’t been in private practice for a very long time. In fact, he supervises and trains therapists but doesn’t have a case load himself.

Richard isn’t an MD and therefore cannot prescribe medication.

He has never worked for a correctional facility.

Richard and I immediately contacted Healthgrades but in order to correct this, but the site led us to a menu which required us to set up a treatment professional profile on Healthgrades. Here’s where the Catch-22 part came in. We set up the part of the profile we could do honestly (we couldn’t fill in the false address for example or say that Richard had a private practice).

We also wrote to Healthgrades once we got what we could set up, but they kept sending  messages to him to complete the profile. Finally, someone got back to us and said that unless we finished completing the profile, they would not investigate our case. Repeated emails from us led to no results.

Finally a friend suggested that I, C.R., post a review on Healthgrades, and in that review, call out Healthgrades for the fraudulent nature of the first review. I did so using my name and email. gave Richard 5 stars in each possible area, and then I explained why I was using the review area–because I was left with no choice. I listed the facts which countered the fraudulent claims. Then, I waited for my review to be read by Healthgrades, who I thought would naturally delete the original fraudulent review.

That’s not what happened. Instead they sent a form email to Richard which basically said he had to complete and log into his profile and then he could write a response to the fraudulent review. In other words, we were back to the original Catch-22.

They also had the chutzpah to not print my review, but actually say there was another response with no written review, and then they printed half of my star ratings! So Healthgrades itself is staffed by liars.

You Cannot Trust Healthgrades At All

Healthgrades knows they have a fraudulent review, about an appointment that never took place, in an office that doesn’t exist, saying a medication was prescribed by a therapist who can’t prescribe medications, in a private practice that doesn’t exist, and with a therapist who does not work where the reviewer says he does (in correctional facilities.)

You can read about hundreds of Healthgrades nightmares on the Consumer Affairs web site. Here. This professional had a fraudulent review similar to ours. Others practitioners have stories similar to Richard’s and mine, but patients also have complaints about Healthgrades too.

If you are a professional who has been harmed by Healthgrades, please leave a comment and let us know if you’ve been able to resolve the situation and how.

If you’re a prospective patient, please know that Healthgrades reviews are very possibly false. Perhaps other online review sites are honest, but we suggest you try word of mouth, professional referrals, and interviewing any practitioner you’re interested in seeing before committing to a course of treatment.

Online Reviews Cannot Be Trusted. Really. Part II

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2017). Online Reviews Cannot Be Trusted. Really. Part II. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Apr 2017
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