Before today, the consumer review site Yelp was about the last place I’d look to find good medical care. Better known for restaurant and retail store critiques, Yelp’s been among several online repositories of physician and hospital reviews that relied solely on customer feedback — or as it’s known in health care, “patient satisfaction.”
Customer reviews might cut it for sniffing out a good taco truck, but a hospital?
Today, however, Yelp announced a partnership with the stellar nonprofit investigative journalism site ProPublica. They’re the ones who reported, to name just a few of their health care investigations, about a popular blood thinner leading to deaths at nursing homes, surgeons’ complication rates, and a must-read analysis about the overlooked and obscured dangers of a pain reliever found in almost every American household’s medicine cabinet: Tylenol.
The ProPublica journalists are, well, pros when it comes to analyzing and interpreting health care data. Yelp’s tapping into that expertise to give their existing consumer reviews of hospitals, nursing homes, and dialysis centers more teeth. The site will now “incorporate health care statistics and consumer opinion survey data onto the Yelp business pages of more than 25,000 medical treatment facilities,” the company wrote in an announcement.
“The information is compiled by ProPublica from their own research and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the U.S. and will be updated quarterly,” the announcement continues.
Along with patient reviews, you can scan an “About this provider box” detailing how the provider compares to its peers. For example, check a hospital emergency room’s average wait time, see fines levied on a local nursing home, or learn how often area dialysis patients wind up in the hospital due to problems with their treatment.
While doctor reviews are already listed on the site, the new provider box doesn’t pop up for individual physicians.
Much of this data is already available on websites including the government’s Hospital Compare, but Yelp executives told the Washington Post the new tool will make the information easier to find and sort through.
ProPublica, in turn, will gain access to all of Yelp’s health-care reviews to use in reporting news stories, the Post reported.
In its own story announcing the partnership, ProPublica offered this advice:
“Indeed, doctors and health professionals everywhere could learn a valuable lesson from the archives of Yelp: Your officious personality or brusque office staff can sink your reputation even if your professional skills are just fine.”
Doctors often bemoan the proliferation of online rating sites, arguing patients lack the knowledge to properly assess their services and focus too much on parking, wait times or other aspects of a visit outside of the care they received.
“Choosing a physician is more complicated than choosing a good restaurant, and patients owe it to themselves to use the best available resources when making this important decision,” the American Medical Association told ProPublica.
As it happens, doctors earned a lower share of five-star reviews than all other health professionals on Yelp, the news site found. Acupuncturists, chiropractors and massage therapists performed much better.
Would you use Yelp to vet a medical provider?