If you’re in an unfamiliar city or having a late-night emergency, how do you find a doctor that’s reputable and available? One option could be to turn to Yelp, where you can often find doctors or urgent care facilities with dozens of reviews. But before you blindly trust the reviews that you find, there’s something you need to know.
A report in today’s NY Times Bits blog by David Streitfeld suggests that since Yelp launched a program to end deceptive reviews on their site in 2012 an increasing number of medical practices are offering to pay for positive reviews.
The image above comes from MedRite Urgent Care in New York City, and you can check out their Yelp page here to see the Consumer Alert in action. More than that, Yelp is even making the evidence available! Here’s the message that “Sam” sent out soliciting a paid review from an active Yelper on the site:
The NY Times piece notes that it’s not just medical practices who have run afoul of Yelp’s rules. David Streitfeld writes:
Of the 300 businesses that have received a Consumer Alert since Yelp launched the program in 2012, about 20 were medical spas, dentists, doctors, orthodontists and ophthalmologists.
If you need a doctor and are worried about being fooled by fake reviews, one service I’d definitely recommend is called ZocDoc. Because ZocDoc’s apps also help you to book your appointment, the company is able to verify people who have actually made an appointment and been seen by a doctor, which should help with the reliability of those reviews. Here’s what that looks like:
Of course, this isn’t just a problem with Yelp. Any website that allows anyone to leave reviews (even ZocDoc!) will attract people attempting to game the system. After all, even fake reviews can often lead to more customers coming through the door!
I’m glad Yelp is looking out and actively trying to shame companies who are “cheating” the system, but it’s up to you to read online reviews carefully! You can’t assume that everything people say about a business online is necessarily true.