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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30 thoughts on ““Top Doctor” awards – scam, or legitimate? ProPublica researches, concludes, “Scam!”

  • December 7, 2020 at 4:18 pm
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    have also been contacted about this ‘top doctor’ award, though I am still in training and therefore have never practiced outside of my residency or fellowship…interesting…

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  • January 22, 2021 at 2:50 pm
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    I’m a board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon. I get these garbage letters and e-mails constantly, offering to place my name on their list of “top doctors” (for a fee of course). Pretty much anybody can get one of their plaques or a feature in their publications. In general, I find that the medical providers who pay for these services are the ones that I would never allow to treat me or anyone I care about.
    My advise is, if you see a health care provider who touts being on a “top doctor” list, turn around and walk the other way.

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    • February 5, 2021 at 2:42 pm
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      Dr. Bingham,
      Your experience fits with my experience – in fact, for a doctor to have one of these awards is, IHO, similar to what gamblers call a negative indicator. If an incompetent gambler, who is prone to losing, tells you to bet on a particular horse, you probably should view this as an indication that you should NOT bet on that horse. If a doctor has one of these plaques in their office, I would avoid them.

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  • February 5, 2021 at 1:34 pm
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    My father, a physician, passed away three years and my mother has been receiving “Top Doctor” solicitations from this company even though she moved to a different state after his death. TOP DOCTOR IS MOST CERTAINLY A SCAM.

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    • February 5, 2021 at 2:39 pm
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      Thanks for sharing your family’s unfortunate experience, which pretty strongly supports concerns that these “awards” are scams.

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  • May 21, 2021 at 6:41 am
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    It is a Big Scam.
    I fell for it

    I had retired and thought such a Plaque will be fine

    They later withdrew $565 from my Bank Account.

    Stay Away.

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    • May 24, 2021 at 10:56 am
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      Again, incredible and thanks for sharing this data point. Hopefully it will help others sort out how to respond to this type of ad.

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  • May 21, 2021 at 8:40 am
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    My father, a physician, retired from practice in 1991 and passed away in 2005. I just received a letter from this company offering to feature my father as a Top Pathologist! Talk about their lists being a little bit out-of-date! SCAM!!

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  • July 1, 2021 at 8:10 pm
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    It is a BIG SCAM. I am retired and fell for it as well. They later removed $595.00 from my account.

    Stay AWAY

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  • August 12, 2021 at 10:58 am
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    My sister-in-law was a neurologist, killed in 2001. My husband was the executer of her estate. Thus we still get mail directed to her even though she passed 20 years ago in a state far from us. Today, August, 12, 2021, we received the top doctor invitation to receive a top doctor plaque for her, have her featured in a top doctor list which will appear both online and in their nationally syndicated publications. She will be featured as a top neurologist representing our home city even though she never practiced here but practiced in a state hundreds of miles from here. They aren’t even aware of her situation. They know nothing about her.

    I can’t believe you gave up after a threat of a lawsuit. The threat of a lawsuit appears to be as much a scam as their plaque scam, afraid of their con game coming to an end.

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    • August 15, 2021 at 4:32 pm
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      Thanks for sharing the info about your sister-in-law. That is a revealing story. I now agree that the threat of a lawsuit was probably bluffing, but at the time didn’t need any additional stress. Now – maybe time to follow up more….

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  • August 14, 2021 at 12:17 pm
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    If you go to their site, they say doctors cannot pay to be included on their site. Their letter claimed I was already included, but I did not show up on any search of my town on their site. I am an MD, but have never been licensed in this state. (I was previously licensed in another state, but never actually practiced medicine.) I wonder if I pay for their plaque, will I actually show up on their site? I don’t plan to find out.
    SCAM

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  • August 15, 2021 at 2:59 pm
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    Hi recently graduated from medical school and haven’t started residency yet. So the only patients I have seen are while I was a student and just received this award? Definitely a scam!

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  • September 1, 2021 at 8:19 pm
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    I think these folks are changing their tactics with more awareness ( atleast among doctors) I got a mailer saying I was selected for exceptional women in medicine- having been promoted recently to an executive position, I assumed this was legitimate. Did not mention any top doctor in their info. I got a call today from someone who talked to me for 25 minutes and asked some legitimate questions like what inspired me to become a doctor, what contributed to my success and what advice I had for others. Finally , she starts saying that there are two plans and rattling multiple numbers which did not make sense. I said I was driving and asked her to mail the info and that I wanted to think about it. She basically was haggling with me to pay something!!! She said once we disconnect that call, I lose my opportunity to be a top doctor- beware of the new ways they are trying to scam doctors

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    • September 8, 2021 at 11:41 am
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      Dr. VN,
      Thanks for your very interesting post. These companies may be getting more savvy, but they still eventually will get to the scam.

      Reply
    • October 18, 2021 at 3:29 pm
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      It had happened to me as well.this women on phone rattling numbers and discounts. Talks about diamond and platinum plans. When i said , i dont have that much money. She talks about gold plan. It seemed fishy at that point. I finally said, i dont want to be featured in Top doctor. She started to warn me, about loosing a spot. Just be aware of all the scams

      Reply
  • September 15, 2021 at 11:38 am
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    I’m laughing because I just received a call from “Top Doctor” about receiving a plaque for my “patient ratings in my area” in 2021. I have been out of practice for 2 years and they had every bit of information wrong about me except for my name. What mediocre dribble!

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  • September 28, 2021 at 7:01 pm
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    Just got a cold call to “verify” my information for a “top doctor plaque”. I usually screen numbers I don’t recognize but I am on call today, so I answered. Definitely felt like a scam and after she wanted to verify my practice I said no thanks and hung up.

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  • October 18, 2021 at 8:27 am
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    I AM a top doctor to my patients. They know it and tell me that I am the best doctor they ever had. That is because I look them in the eye and listen to them. I respect them, and of course, I do what I can to help them. They are reassured that I can discuss recent literature related to their health problems. They like that I try not to overprescribe. I am not afraid to touch them when examination calls for that (amazing how many patients complain that a previous doc “acted like he was afraid to touch me”). Some cried when I recently retired. I do not need a plaque to prove anything to anyone.

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  • October 29, 2021 at 10:34 am
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    I got a call today about the “plaque” for my husband being almost ready. They used my personal cell phone number. They said they can help move him to the top of a Google search. I told them he isn’t in private practice and wouldn’t be interested and he was way too busy to talk to them. I then messaged my husband who said he always ignores those kinds of things. I don’t like the fact that they have my phone number connected to his medical practice.

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  • November 16, 2021 at 10:13 am
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    I received a personalized letter telling me how pleased they are to include me this year as a Top Doctor. I am not a MD, but that’s no obstacle to getting the plaque or be listed in their online list of Top Doctors. If I have credited doctors in the past who have prominently displayed such plaques, I would now put them in a category of quacks who have to resort to fake honors to hide their inadequacies.

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  • November 16, 2021 at 12:47 pm
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    1. No one calls or write to solicit you for an award in the medical clinical practice and biomedical research fields.
    2. You must typically be nominated by your peers/supervisors and go through an application and selection process (at your institution or by the society to which you belong) to receive any type of award for professional recognition.
    3. There is no charge to receive a legitimate award for recognition in the medical profession.
    4. This type of scam has been going on for years, and they have done it with students as well. Many years ago, my late father received such a solicitation for me to receive an award (with plaque) as a top student in college (with an abysmal GPA) and he paid for it.
    5. I am writing because these idiots just called and interrupted me at work in the hospital; did not answer, but texted later and provided them with a warning to never contact me again or I shall have a cease and desist order issued to them. Unlike the toothless legal threat made to the originator of this thread, my warning is real and with merit.

    Government watchdogs have not put these people out of business who misrepresent what they are selling for many years, so best to just ignore them.

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  • December 3, 2021 at 4:26 pm
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    Just got a phone call to try and sell me a plaque because I am one of “America’s Top Doctors.” Since I retired a year ago, I had nothing better to do with my time but talk to the woman. I told her I didn’t want my plaque to say “Top Doctor, ” but to say “Pathologist Extraordinaire.” She was fine with that. I told her that I didn’t want my name on the plaque, but a nickname I had back in college. She was fine with that. When she wanted my credit card number, I told her that I had cancelled that card. I then asked her for her card number, since I thought America would pay for my recognition as one of “America’s Top Doctors.” There was a long pause, and then a segue into different sizes of plaques and their respective prices. Eventually, she was able to figure out that I was playing her and she hung up on me, but not before I got the 800 number to discuss my order with her. Since I have insomnia, I intend to call it at 2 am tonight and confirm my order. For less than $200, my wife and I agreed that the plaque as ordered would be a great gag gift to put on my bookshelf.

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    • December 4, 2021 at 7:18 pm
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      David,
      Very, very rich – both the idea of calling the 800 number and ordering a joke plaque. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

      Reply

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