By Sammy Caiola
Most people turn to Yelp, the popular consumer review site and mobile app, when they're looking for a late-night takeout restaurant or a great spot for brunch. Now, they'll be able to search the site for quality information about doctors and hospitals.
Though hospitals and doctors have been available for critique on the crowdsourcing site for several years, their pages are now being expanded with quality assessment data from the investigative nonprofit group ProPublica, Yelp announced Wednesday.
ProPublica will provide quarterly updates on health services at 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the United States, using data it has compiled from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The information will include emergency department wait times, patient survival rates, incurred fines and physician communication ratings.
Sacramento's local hospitals already get some attention on Yelp -- and it's not always good. UC Davis Medical Center, operated by the region's largest research institution, receives only 2 1/2 stars for its hospital care. A long list of consumer reviews on its page includes complaints about mismatched prescriptions, unorganized billing and unsanitary patient conditions.
And the list goes on, not just for UC Davis but for facilities operated by all four of the region's major health systems and dozens of private practitioners. On each page, customers are given free range to rant about care they received, with site moderators intervening only in cases of inappropriate content.
With the new offering, an "About this Provider" box in the top-right corner serves up objective data to help inform consumers' health care decisions. On Sutter General Hospital's page, information from Medicare.gov is available about the average wait time (23 minutes) and its doctor communication rating (average). The Eskaton Care Center in the Greenhaven neighborhood in Sacramento, despite receiving only 2 1/2 stars from users, benefits from a ProPublica box that states it has received no fines or suspensions.
"Now the millions of consumers who use Yelp to find and evaluate everything from restaurants to retail will have even more information at their fingertips when they are in the midst of the most critical life decisions, like which hospital to choose for a sick child or which nursing home will provide the best care for aging parents," wrote Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in a blog post about the change.
The medical community has concerns the profiles may give an incomplete picture of a hospital's performance.
The American Medical Association has cast doubts on the credibility of online reviews, and called for regulations that allow physicians to look over them before they are made public. On Yelp, pages are created by establishments, but creators cannot alter or delete any comments.
Brian Jensen, regional vice president of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, said the profiles may not capture a complete picture of health services, even with the added quality metrics.
"I would caution that oftentimes, because of the complexities of health care and how it's measured and all of the different services, it might not always transfer as easily to an application like Yelp as, say, your favorite Chinese restaurant," he said. "But consumers should have as much of a say as possible."
(c)2015 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)