Remember CareDash, the website that was making directory listings without therapists’ permission, some of which included folks’ home addresses? Well, I’m told that some people have had success having their personal information taken down without having to “claim” their profile.
(Remember, if you “claim” your profile, you agree to CareDash’s terms of service. This means you consent to their policies, including their unauthorized use of people’s personal and business information on their website. Personally, I will not be claiming my profile.)
Unfortunately, the site continues to make these profiles with often incorrect information, putting therapists in a liability Catch-22: we have an ethical responsibility to ensure that advertisements accurately reflect our practice, but many of us do not feel we can ethically claim a profile and endorse CareDash’s practices.
Personally, I contacted all of my licensing boards to let them know that the profile is unauthorized and why I did not claim it. All basically said “Ok thanks for telling us, we’ve noted that you did your part to be responsible.”
You can submit your link to Google to ask that it be taken off of their search engine for inaccurate information – this of course does not get rid of the profile, but it at least gets it off of your search results.
A colleague shared with me a letter they wrote to their state representative asking for them to help get rid of the various websites that use unauthorized profiles to drive traffic. (CareDash is the one that brought about this blog post, but there are dozens out there.) The colleague was kind enough to let me share the wording with all of you, so that you can forward your own letters and make noise about this. For their privacy, I’ve redacted their personal information at their request.
Dear [Representative]:Letter to state representatives
I was made aware of a business called CareDash that takes NPI listings and creates online profiles for therapists’ businesses.
These profiles are not necessarily correct, and when I checked mine, it was cross-referenced with another person with a similar name in another state! This is false advertising and creates a risk for my licensure, with an undue burden for me to address this unauthorized advertisement.
CareDash refuses to remove my listing, instead encouraging me to “claim” my profile. They are not approved by the Better Business Bureau and have a very loose disclaimer that they are using public information. I do not want to put my time and energy into an unethical business model.
Posting incorrect information about mental health services is harmful to the public.
I made a complaint with [State] Attorney General, and I will be contacting [Other State Representatives] as well.
Thank you for taking the time to review this concern.
[Therapist name and credentials]
My colleague also shared with me a letter from a state representative requesting that CareDash’s business practices be investigated. Again, they requested that I redact identifying information but gave me permission to share this from the letter:
CareDash’s use of NPI numbers and practitioner information poses a risk to practitioners’ reputations and to consumers’ ability to make informed health care decisions. These concerns have been raised nearly 800 times to the Better Business Bureau and to the Federal Trade Commission with seemingly very little effect on CareDash’s practices. I urge you to look into this matter and consider limiting the way that NPI records may be used by private companies.Letter from a state representative regarding CareDash
The two main issues with CareDash’s use of NPI records are the creation−and subsequent management−of practitioner profiles without consent and the use of those profiles to attract consumers to offer services from affiliated sites for CareDash’s monetary gain. CareDash claims to provide consumers with a centralized list of mental health professional profiles aggregated from publicly available information, including the NPI registry. The creation of these profiles is problematic in itself because it creates a presumed affiliation with CareDash that does not necessarily exist. Instead of opting in, practitioners with NPIs are automatically added to CareDash, putting the onus on practitioners to monitor these types of sites for the use of their NPI and the management of their online presence.
Upon discovering their profile, many practitioners have complained that the information on CareDash is incorrect, does not match the information in the NPI registry, includes personal information (including home addresses and phone numbers), and/or includes additional information of unclear origin. Moreover, there is no opt-out option or ability to delete a profile. Currently, the only remedy is for the practitioner to claim the profile on CareDash and edit incorrect information. This course of action confirms affiliation with CareDash even when the practitioner would prefer to not be associated with the site at all.
Incorrect information is not only a concern for the reputation of the provider but for the patient who is looking to CareDash for accurate information regarding available providers. Without accurate information, potential clients cannot make informed decisions that are in the best interest of their health and wellbeing.
Additionally, CareDash’s profit model is dependent on sending prospective clients to affiliated sites. CareDash seems to use a bait and switch approach. It claims to have available information on mental health professionals but then suggests other practitioners who are ‘affiliated’ with them to book an appointment. This practice “may amount to a misappropriation of
[practitioners’] names and reputations for commercial gain,” a concerned raised by the National Association of Social Workers. Likewise, the American Counseling Association views CareDash’s compulsory action as an ethical dilemma for its members, one that was not created by the practitioner themself.
Unfortunately, websites like this one make it difficult for providers to accurately market our services, and they make it more difficult for those seeking care to find accurate information and connect with a potential therapist. Basically, it’s a lose-lose for everyone except for the affiliates lining their pockets with revenue earned using our unauthorized information.
I hope this story ends with system-wide reform that improves access to mental health care and accurate service information. Stay tuned!