I am constantly being targeted by ads for telepsychiatry services on social media, and I’ve watched the niche quickly explode over the past year and a half — companies like ADHD Online, Done, Cerebral, and Ahead clutter my Instagram feed now.
The general model of these services goes something like this: you take an assessment online, meet with a psychologist virtually, and get a diagnosis and a prescription for a monthly fee. Most of them don’t take insurance, which can be a good thing for people who don’t have insurance anyway, or a bad thing if you do.
I appreciate improved accessibility in a country where healthcare is hard to get and insurance is a nightmare, and I’ve had good experiences with telemedicine personally. I’m glad it exists as an option and I think it can be helpful, especially for marginalized folks for whom access to healthcare services is even more limited. But despite the positives, I have questions about the message these companies are selling.
A quick look-up of ADHD Online on the Better Business Bureau came back with several eyebrow-raising reviews from discontent service users, many of which claimed they felt cheated or scammed, or that their own doctor did not accept the online diagnosis their $150 bought them.
“They are preying on people with poor impulse control during a time when they are having trouble seeing a doctor in person,” read one complaint written last December.
“The company is a complete scam,” read another on June 17.
The Michigan-based company was founded by business executive Zachariah Booker, who lists himself as “Visionary, Groundbreaker, Leader” on his LinkedIn page, and Dr. Randall Duthler, a physician in Grand Rapids.
ADHD Online seems to have invested heavily in Instagram ads. I am shown several per day, and I’ve also spotted the brand in TikToks by popular ADHD influencer Dani Donovan, who has half a million followers (though without ad disclosure — a big issue on TikTok — it’s unclear whether this was sponsored).
The healthcare industry has caught on to the cash cow that is influencer marketing. A company called WEGO Health…