The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) informed its members last week that CareDash, which operates a health care provider directory, is engaging in what “appears to be an improper deceptive practice.” NASW says that CareDash’s process of using clinician listings to direct prospective clients to online therapy platform BetterHelp rather than to the listed clinicians “potentially violates federal and/or state consumer protection laws.”
Despite what a reasonable consumer would expect, you cannot, in fact, check my availability using the button that says Check Availability.
At issue is how CareDash is using its directory. If you search on the CareDash home page for a therapist who is listed on their site, you will be sent to that therapist’s profile page. (It is also possible that a prospective client searching for you on Google or another search engine might see your CareDash profile listed in search results, and go to your profile directly.) That profile page includes a “Check Availability” button, as well as a link to “see recommendations on how to Schedule an Appointment with [clinician’s name] online.”
But if the therapist hasn’t signed up with CareDash, those links will not lead to the therapist’s availability. In both cases, following those links will lead the user to language that “[Clinician’s name] has not provided a way to schedule online through CareDash. However, you could get connected with an online therapist or chat with our virtual assistant to get help finding a therapist.” These options all appear to direct to clinicians on the BetterHelp platform. CareDash says that they earn commissions through those links.
That is what has NASW concerned. Clients looking for a specific therapist, who may in fact have availability, are instead being redirected away from the therapist they searched for and funneled to BetterHelp. CareDash says that therapists wishing to update their information can claim their profile and then update it, making it easier for prospective clients to contact them directly. For those who do not wish to be listed on CareDash, the company states on their FAQ page that they do not remove profiles for any reason.
NASW cautions that these practices may or may not actually violate any state or federal law. CareDash’s directory is built from public data, including the information therapists submit when filing for an NPI number (necessary for insurance billing). However, because NASW believes CareDash’s practices to be deceptive, they have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and are encouraging individual clinicians who have been listed without their consent to file complaints as well. Those complaints can be filed with the FTC or your state Attorney General’s office.
I reached out to the media offices of both CareDash and BetterHelp for comment prior to publication of this article. Neither company had replied as of the time of initial publication.
Update 8/4/22: BetterHelp responded, noting that it had ended its affiliate agreement with CareDash: “We appreciate the concern raised in this instance. CareDash is an entirely separate company, and we do not control their business practices. […] Since we’ve learned of some concerns raised about CareDash, we’ve stopped promoting BetterHelp on their website and have ended the arrangement.”
Updated 8/3/22 with minor clarifying edits.