Docs Hurting Their Reps By Leaving Themselves False Reviews

Changing insurance policies recently, I’ve been frantically searching online for specialists, an eye doctor, dentists etc. While usually, I would ask friends, the nature of my specific insurance coverage made that plan pretty obsolete as everyone had different coverage.

And, I have to say, it’s a bit surprising how few customer reviews there are. While sites like Yelp can be somewhat helpful, the fact is, Yelp was written for more direct consumer businesses and most people don’t appear to leave doctor reviews.

I’m not sure why(perhaps its less sexy?), especially as it’s such an important area for word of mouth reviews; I can live with a bad burger — but who can say the same for a bad doctor? But such as it is.

ZocDoc, a social media site that lets user input their insurance and location, is looking to change things for the better. Using ZocDoc, it’s super easy to find doctors by location AND health insurance.  Should be a total life saver, right?

It would be — if doctors weren’t abusing it. Looking for a dentist, recently, I was pretty shocked by the high number of 5-level reviews from people who, conveniently, had only written that one review. Since there are so few organic reviews, the fake reviews are pretty easy to spot. “Great service and super low rates.” or “The Doctor made me feel comfortable and listened to me.”  — the reviews are always super generic and bland and, frankly, rather pathetic.

It’s all so ironic, too. When I see that, I assume the doctor is dishonest and immediately move on, as opposed to booking an appointment. Maybe, they aren’t the dishonest one. Maybe, it’s a business partner who is infiltrating their reviews. But, it leaves me with a queasy feeling and makes me want to find a new doctor pronto.

I know that doctors run a business, like anyone else, but I’m looking for someone I can trust with my health — and that’s not someone who is inflating their reputation online.

I hope that docs get with the picture soon, for all us patients’ sakes. I also hope more consumers start leaving genuine reviews.  Until then. . . be sure to double-check who’s actually leaving your doc’s reviews. If it’s the doctor him/herself, keep on clicking!


9 thoughts on “Docs Hurting Their Reps By Leaving Themselves False Reviews

  1. I am aware of  quite a few, well documented, instances of attempts to manipulate public trust by overzealous, not too smart and surely unethical marketers. You can find some references to those in my blog,  WSJ Blog, as well as many other places. This practice is illegal and the article in the New York Times describes the precedent-setting case. Incredible transparency is supported by the Internet exposed by less egregious attempts by others to compromise public trust using the most popular customer review sites and succeed at eroding the reputation of the companies involved. However, we are citing examples of a dozen-or-so known examples, that involve hundred or hundreds of actual reviews, while tens-of-millions of customer generated reviews have been published over the years. Is it reasonable to dismiss the public service of a multitude of socially- minded individuals for the sins of a few corrupt or misguided?

  2. Hi Gregory,

    Thanks for your comment, even though it seems mostly like a plug for your company. My point, was not that we should dismiss customer reviews — hardly — but rather that we need to be 1) discerning to see whom the reviews are coming from to be sure they aren’t fake and 2) that we need to make sure that we leave more reviews for doctors, even if it’s a less ‘sexy’ topic than restaurants, bars, and other typical Yelp businesses.

  3. I am an avid ZocDoc user and have experienced not-so-great doctors with numerous glowing reviews. I had been wondering about the policy regarding the reviews on ZocDoc(friends and family and possibly ppl. that are paid to write glowing reviews), and even took the time to call the company to figure this out. ZocDoc denied such claims as presposterous, but I have had one too many doc visits (all were rated 4.5 stars and up) that did not meet up to the posted ratings. Echoing your sentiments above, the medical profession is also a business whose ultimate goal is profit- but completely different in nature because of the weight it carries in that it deals with life, death, and health, which is no small issue and may not be best handled with the usual business acumen.
    Thanks for your honest comments- someone should be talking about this, and I’m glad you are.

    • Hi Chloe,

      Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your comments – it’s always helpful to see that I’m not alone in my thoughts! I’ve appreciated Zoc Doc in a pinch but agree that it’s not nearly as great a service as it could be as it’s not nearly as transparent as it needs to be. That said, they do seem to be aware of some of the issues and were responsive to me when I wrote them that one of the doctors I saw wasn’t even the doctor listed. What frustrates me the most is that it’s such a smart, utility of a service if they could only get it right. Until they do…looks like I’ll have to continue ‘googling’ doctors on yelp and such.

  4. Just got back from a 2nd appointment with a ZocDoc 5 star Chiropractor….they guy was a complete quack! Did some deeper digging and saw that a few reviews he had on Yelp were copy and pasted to a yahoo listing for him too. He HAS to be gaming the ZocDoc system because quite frankly, he was crazy, and tried to take serious advantage of my health insurance plan by attempting to give me orthotics, back brace, pillow, etc.

    This made me lose all faith in ZocDoc. 5 stars from 25 reviews, and the guy is the most unprofessional appointment I’ve ever had? come on.

    • So sorry to hear you had such a bad experience as well. I was really disappointed as it seemed like it could have been such a great service. As more doctors become more busy, I suppose there are just too few openings for good docs to use it.

  5. I know this is an old article, so maybe most people know this by now, but Zocdoc is a scam. I have spoken to doctors about the site, and one of them said that he used it for a short time, and that the first 4 or 5 reviews are actually GIVEN to the doctors by Zocdoc! So they are FAKE reviews. Plus it’s very easy for docs to write their own 5 star reviews on the site. Not only is it not a reliable review site for potential patients, but zocdoc rips off doctors. The site costs doctors a few thousand dollars to use. Three different doctors I know who used the site for a short time said that they only got 1 or 2 patients from it, and that none of these zocdoc patients became long-term, and that some of them didn’t even show up for their appointments. They said they got more patients by putting info on doctor review sites that were free. So Zocdoc is a total ripoff. One of my friends who is a dentist said that a Zocdoc rep actually pretended to be a patient in order to get my friend to sign up with them. They are very unethical.

  6. Almost without fail, Yelp reviews are decidedly more negative (sometimes much moreso) then the ZocDoc reviews of the same doctors. I have seen doctors with “5 stars” with many 1-star reviews on Yelp – none of which appear on ZocDoc. Thank you for bringing attention to this. As another commenter pointed out, it’s not like people are shopping for cars here – we’re talking about people’s health.

  7. I am a doctor who uses and has used zoc doc. I can say that some of what is out there is true and some exaggerated ( at least in my experience.) As far as how the process went. They contacted me saying that they did not have enough of doctors with my specialty (psychiatry) in my area available on their site. (which i believe to be true given many other reasons I wont go into here). They did not lie and say I had been refereed by another doctor etc. They did try and get me to sign up for one year however because I was skeptical I opted to pay monthly to see if this was worth doing. The next step was to “get me started with some stellar reviews.” They asked that I have 8 patients fill out reviews and send them in. Being a psychiatrist I did not feel it was appropriate to ask my patients for any assistance on my behalf, and I imagine would not have whatever specialty I was in. As there was no way to have this done randomly or anonymously I opted to not send in any initial evaluations which they were fine with. I will say that the opportunity was there to fill out 8 evaluations for myself and have them say whatever I wanted, however I obviously was not comfortable with that either. In any case the idea of fake reviews on this site has some credibility as I no doubt believe that there are doctors who will do this.

    Now I also have read that only bad doctors use this site however I can say (perhaps self servingly) that I am not a bad doctor. I am however, or was, newly out of residency trying to start up a private practice and felt a referral source that was list one the front page of google could help me build my patient load faster. I set aside 6 new patient appointments a week on zocdoc, and made sure to clear my primary EMR schedule for those times (integrating their schedule into my own proved too time consuming). So I would say that the issues with scheduling appointments that are not available or when the doctors are not actually there is likely on the doctors themselves rather than the website, as I have never once had additional appointments added that I did not put there myself (despite being contacted by zocdoc to add more appointment times because of demand.)

    To date (about 6-9 months) I have not had a problem filling any of those spots and in fact could probably fill more. Again this may have to do with my specialty and location. As far as things I have read that they fill spots with fake patients who then don’t show up, I would say this has not been my experience. The no show rate of new patients scheduling through zoc doc seems to be less than that of the no show rate of new patients calling to schedule by phone.

    Finally as far as negative reviews go the first thing to remember about online reviews is that the bias is towards both very positive experiences and very negative goes ( this goes for all types on online reviews.) as most people with average experiences do not feel as compelled to complete surveys. That said to date I have had about 80 patients schedule with zoc doc of which say 20% did not show up. That is 64 pts seen and I have presently 16 reviews. While they are essentially all 5 star reviews, i believe them to be genuine as the wait time category is often 3-4 stars which is consistant with my practice, and the percentage/quality of reviews mirrors that of my primary EMR practice fusion. I will say that there were two instances where a patient did not show up (or rather did not want to wait past there appointment time to be seen and left before being seen) having forgot to mark them as a no show they left 1 star reviews which I contacted zoc doc about and they were willing to remove them. ( I would not have minded them leaving a review specifically stating their wait time however they said there was no way to just have that part of the review up.) To me this indicates that it is certainly possible for doctors to have negative reviews taken down, but I can say from personal experiences they do not seem to intentionally not post negative reviews, however if a doctor was so inclined they could lie and say the patient was never seen which would remove their rating. (I will also note I was never told who the reviewer was I simply told them the date and time of the person who did not show up and they were able to match that apparently with the person who submitted the review.)

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