CareDash Creates Fake Therapist Profiles

Update: The CareDash website is no longer active as of February 01, 2023. The APASI is also working with members of the US Senate to investigate ghost networks that impact Americas access to mental health care

CareDash is an online directory for healthcare providers. At a glance, the site looks legitimate enough, as legitimate as any Yellow Pages clone. But what makes CareDash different is that it created profiles for therapists without their consent, and then used those profiles to make money.

How does it work?

According to Bloomberg, on these unsolicited profiles, CareDash turned the “Book an appointment” button into a link that redirected potential clients to other therapy portals like BetterHelp or Talkspace Inc., from where potential clients would be shown other therapists. Not that therapist whose profile was created without their consent.

It’s a bait-and-switch.

How Does Caredash Get My Info?

CareDash included the therapist’s name, address, and even their phone number. But, of course, the therapist had no say in what information was included. And despite the information being pulled from public records such as the NPPES NPI Registry, many therapists have reported wildly inaccurate profiles.

CareDash did nothing to inform therapists that they had created profiles for them. BetterHelp and Talkspace kept their mouths sealed as well, as all parties involved personally benefited from the insulting practice.

In a way, inaccurate information is a boon for CareDash, as it motivated therapists to claim their profile, thereby building CareDash’s pool of information on individual therapists.

And if therapists don’t claim their profiles what does it matter for CareDash? Unclaimed profiles are an affiliate opportunity for CareDash—and affiliate links appear to be the primary means of profit for the site.

According to Bloomberg, “In a separate, earlier statement, the company had said that it creates profiles for licensed health professionals without their permission or knowledge and that profiles are not taken down, even if asked for by the therapist. In its follow-up statement, the CareDash did not say it would change that policy, but would make it clear from where it obtains data.

CareDash Is Not The First Directory To Receive Complaints

CareDash is just the latest directory to play foul with therapists and their information. Other culprits include the very sites that are associated with CareDash. Unfortunately, the Bloomberg article failed to hold BetterHelp and Talkspace accountable, who benefited from the redirects to sell their own services.

While I’m sure Betterhelp’s CEO Alon Matas would prefer it forgotten, BetterHelp had gotten himself in trouble in 2018 for its YouTube advertising campaigns, in which potential clients were matched with unlicensed and unprofessional therapists. YouTubers were paid well for the sponsorship.

In January 2022, Talkspace Inc. faced a securities fraud class-action suit for misleading investors. And In August, 2020, The New York Times reported that Talkspace had used “burner” phones to improve their app’s review score.

At least BetterHelp did tell Bloomberg that they ended their agreement with CareDash, and will no longer advertise on the site. BetterHelp can—and has—claimed ignorance to distance themselves from the controversy. But would BetterHelp end its agreement if they weren’t caught?

CareDash Is Not The First To Take Advantage Of Therapists

The claim-your-profile strategy of soliciting business isn’t new. It’s an old internet practice that monetizes people’s anxieties.

It’s the equivalent of real estate agents who use obituaries to find houses to sell. Or, background check websites which make it appear that a person has a criminal record so that said person buys a subscription to correct the inaccuracy.

Many businesses use public information to profit off anxiety. It’s a dirty practice.

What Can You Do About CareDash?

The ACA has issued a statement regarding CareDash, but it’s not taking direct action, yet. “ACA leadership and governance are currently exploring potential courses of action…” For now the ACA recommends that therapists and counselors contact the FTC, Better Business Bureau, etc.

The NASW gives guidance on how to file a complaint, and they have also sent letters to both CareDash and BetterHelp:

That office has sent letters to CareDash and BetterHelp demanding they immediately discontinue the practice. NASW National has received no response from CareDash and an inadequate one from BetterHelp. NASW National itself has already filed a complaint about this matter with the FTC.

If your profile is being used by CareDash for affiliate marketing then we suggest you file a complaint with the FTC.

Regardless of how you move forward it’s worth noting that CareDash is unlikely to affect your practice’s online presence.

From an SEO perspective, CareDash is a rather fishy website. It’s top referring domains include suspicious websites which we wont post here as we don’t want to lead people to them. 

Because the site is rather fishy they don’t rank well for keywords that threaten local practices. Hence, another reason to create therapist profiles as a means of monetization.

And CareDash is competing with Yelp and WebMD and ZocDoc.

Therapists Need Their Own Website

However, what they do rank for, are therapists who don’t have any digital presence outside of CareDash, which is why it’s important for therapists to take charge of their online presence, so that predatory portals like CareDash can’t own their presence and use it to their advantage. CareDash is unlikely to be the last therapy portal that tries to take advantage of the mental healthcare industry for its own profit. 

Don’t be beholden to CareDash’s profiles or the CareDash Patient Reviews (some of which don’t look too trustworthy at a glance). Do you want your only online persona to be at the mercy of a site like CareDash? 

If you haven’t already made a website there’s no time like now. And if you do have a site, but haven’t paid much attention to it, then now’s the time to spruce up your practice’s digital presence. That way you rank for your name, and some shady directory company can’t take it from you.

Take charge of your digital destiny with a strong, optimized website. 

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