Yelp adds Medicare and Medicaid info to reviews

YelpReview website Yelp and nonprofit news organization ProPublica have partnered to give more than 25,000 hospitals the same treatment the former usually reserves for restaurants and hotels. As a result you can find out about average wait times in a hospital’s ER, fines that a nursing home has paid, readmissions and survival expectations for a dialysis center, number of hospital beds, inspection deficiencies, quality of quiet rooms, doctors' bedside manners, etc. “Many people think of the Yelp platform for finding great restaurants and hotels, and it certainly is,” Yelp's vice president for policy Luther Lowe said. But “six percent of businesses reviewed on Yelp are in the healthcare category.” In fact, legend has it the company was built on the question, “How do you find a great doctor online?”

The data for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics was researched and selected by ProPublica from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Which begs the question, if a lot of this information is already available on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, why Yelp it? The company’s executives believe that the data can be hard to find and sort out. “We're taking data that otherwise might live in some government pdf that's hard to find and we're putting it in a context where it makes sense for people who may be in the middle of making critical decisions,” said Lowe. “We give just another layer of information that can help guide their really important off-line decision.”

However, organizations such as Aging Care Advocates in Tampa are urging consumers not to rely solely on Yelp and similar websites to make healthcare decisions, claiming that they may not be fully updated. “All it takes is one administrator, a new administrator, to come in and change things for the positive or change things for the negative,” member of the Tampa group Genevieve Faulk said. Instead, she suggests touring the facility to check for quality signs, such as “that the food is good, there's no bad smells, that they've gone on and maybe other site,” as well as using state inspection reports to rate facilities that allow consumers to “see what are other people's experiences in that center.”

On the subject of up-to-date information, ProPublica said it will update the data on a quarterly basis. The non-profit organization’s assistant managing editor Scott Klein said that millions of users will have access to the additional info – which will pop up on the front page of a hospital's review site – and will still be able to use Yelp’s star-rating system to review medical business, as has always been the case. In exchange, ProPublica will be granted access to all healthcare reviews for use news stories. Regardless of any criticism, Lowe said they “hope … to continue protecting consumers from bad healthcare choices.”

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