Yelp, ProPublica partnership gives consumers access to hospital ratings

Until recently, using the crowdsourced information on Yelp to decide which hospital to go to meant navigating star ratings and seemingly countless consumer reviews.

But should you trust Michael J.’s five-star review claiming “this is the best hospital in Phoenix!”? Do you heed the advice of Lauren F. and her one-star review that warns “do not ever come or stay at this hospital!”? This, of course, assumes you don’t have the time to read Donna P.’s 954-word review of the same hospital.

Today, however, yelp.com
and its Yelp app offer government data with its reviews of hospitals and dialysis centers. That includes average emergency room wait times and number of dialysis stations.

It’s part of a collaboration with the national investigative reporting nonprofit ProPublica.

The information for each center, which is pulled from medicare.gov, is presented in a box to the right of the consumer reviews.

Other information for hospitals includes ratings of doctor communication and how quiet the rooms are. For dialysis centers, the data includes whether peritoneal dialysis is offered and patient survival.

Yelp and ProPublica announced that nursing home data would be available as well, but Cronkite News was unable to find it with any reviews for facilities in Maricopa County.

Matt Benson, a spokesman for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said anything that makes the data more accessible is “a great thing.”

“The federal government keeps this information, but it’s of no use to someone if they don’t know where to find it or they can’t navigate it,” Benson said.

Dignity Health, which operates several hospitals and medical centers in the Valley, declined to comment on the addition of data to Yelp reviews, while Banner Health emailed a statement:

“Information about the performance of health care providers, including hospitals, physicians, insurance companies, etc., is increasingly publicly available and readily accessible through traditional and digital media sources. Banner Health believes consumers can make better choices when they are well-informed.”

A representative of San Francisco-based Yelp declined to discuss the arrangement but directed a reporter to a blog post explaining the partnership.

Not all Arizona hospitals and dialysis centers included on Yelp have the medicare.gov information, and Retha Hill, executive director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said that could hurt institutions lacking it.

“For the consumers, if they’re looking for a particular health care provider and they see information for some providers and not see that information for other providers, I think the natural tendency is for them to wonder if one provider might have something to hide as opposed to another provider where there’s much more transparency,” she said.

Hill said this move is part of a generational trend in which instant information and transparency are in more demand, adding that companies and news organizations are adapting to that.

“This is all part of that trend to get information out to the people when they need it as opposed to making them wait until it’s on a report of some sort that might be issued once a year,” she said. “You don’t have to wait for that anymore. It’s there when you need it.”

Like Hill, Benson said the partnership is a big step for consumers.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact in terms of the hospitals themselves; in terms of patients, the impact is potentially significant,” Benson said. “This is information that, for the most part, is already publicly available, and with this partnership they’re going to make it more accessible to the public.”

As for not having data for all hospitals, Benson noted that the partnership has just started and will hopefully grow.

“I would imagine that the website is going to continue to refine things to make it as accurate and as representative as they can,” he said.