MHConceirge previously posted about “top doctors award” plaques, after getting a phone call from a person who sounded profoundly bored and tried to sell me a plaque for a couple of hundred dollars. Since I practice in Minnesota and the company was located in another state, I wondered how the company could possibly establish that I am a “top doctor.”

A few minutes of online research located an ABC News investigative report from 2012 about these “top doctors” plaques. The report found several, frankly, fishy examples of these awards, such as an MD with a history of dental school, but who changed to medical school, and was offered a “top dentist” plaque. They also found, “(a company’s) database of “Top Physicians” includes doctors with serious criminal and disciplinary records.”

So, I posted about my research, and forgot about it.  A few months later, while reviewing my Google Analytics data for my posts, I was shocked to find that this “top doctors awards- a scam?” post had several thousand hits, and many more comments than any of my other posts.  “Huh,” I thought.

Most of the comments were scathingly critical and agreed that it is a scam.  Interestingly, I did receive several comments that defended companies that sell these plaques.  Even more interestingly, it seemed to me that these comments seemed very similar to each other.

Things got more interesting a few months later when I received a letter from a legal firm from another time zone.  These letters are never good news, and this one was a “cease and desist” demand from a lawyer for one of the “top doctors” companies.  They claimed that my post had caused “serious financial harm” to the company, and demanded that I immediately remove the post, or face litigation.  They demanded an immediate written response.

My first thought was, perhaps with a bit of narcissism, “Cool!  MHConcierge has made it to the big leagues!”  My second thought, with perhaps more pragmatism, was, even though I was only reporting on ABC’s research, that I didn’t need the hassle and expense of even the threat of a lawsuit.  So, with great reluctance, I promptly responded with “OK” and took down the post.

A news organization with much more resources than MHConcierge, ProPublica, became aware of the “top doctor awards” industry when one of their journalists, who is not a physician, was called and offered the opportunity to buy a plaque. He did some proper journalistic research and published “I’m a Journalist. Apparently, I’m Also One of America’s ‘Top Doctors.’”  He concludes, “Experts call the accolades a “scam.” Giving me one highlights the absurdity.”

So, I am posting again.   If you want to comment in defense of the “top doctors” industry, you are welcome  to comment away – MHConcerige seeks to promote informed discussion about issues affecting mental health professionals.  If you do, however, please provide info that nobody else has been able to provide – how does a company located in another state actually verify that I, or anyone else, is really a “top doctor?’ And, in particular, how to you explain the high percentage of “false positives” cited by the ABC report – many doctors with serious licensing violations who are “top doctors”?

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