New York City-based orthopedic surgeon Mark Mohrmann, MD, has been fined $100,000 for allegedly posting fake positive reviews online for his practice, Highline Orthopedics.
An investigation by the Office of the New York State Attorney General found that Dr. Mohrmann and his wife worked together to suppress negative reviews and inflate fake positive reviews across several websites, including ZocDoc, Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, md.com, ratemds.com and the Better Business Bureau.
In addition to the $100,000 in penalties, Dr. Mohrmann and his wife have been ordered to remove any fake positive reviews from the internet, according to an Oct. 30 press release from the state's attorney general's office.
Dr. Mohrmann and his wife allegedly secured fake positive reviews from friends, family members and employees, asking them to leave five-star ratings even if they had never received treatment at Highline.
Dr. Mohrmann's wife also hired contractors on websites including Fiverr and Upwork to post fake reviews. She would write the text for the reviews and pass them along to contractors, who posted them using fraudulent accounts.
Dr. Mohrmann and his wife also allegedly got rid of negative online reviews by flagging them for removal for violating the platforms' policies prohibiting inappropriate conduct. He would also, in some cases, call patients who left negative reviews and offer to refund their copay or other costs for removing the review.
To prevent patients from leaving bad reviews on ZocDoc, Dr. Mohrmann would allegedly falsely indicate that patients did not show up for the scheduled appointment so they would not be able to leave reviews.
"Many patients rely on online reviews when choosing which doctor to trust with their health, and it's important that these reviews are authentic," state Attorney General Letitia James said in the release. "Dr. Mohrmann deceived patients through a secret campaign to remove fake reviews and unfairly obtain positive reviews to boost his practice. These actions are illegal and unacceptable, particularly for critical services like medical care. My office will continue to take action against those trying to mislead patients in New York."