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You can now look up ER wait times, hospital noise levels and nursing home fines on Yelp

(Courtesy of Yelp)
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Yelp is adding a ton of health-care data to its review pages for medical businesses to give consumers more access to government information on hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics.

Consumers can now look up a hospital emergency room's average wait time, fines paid by a nursing home, or how often patients getting dialysis treatment are readmitted to a hospital because of treatment-related infections or other problems.

The review site is partnering with ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization based in New York. ProPublica compiled the information from its own research and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The data is for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the United States, and it will be updated quarterly.

Much of the information about hospitals, for example, is available on Medicare's Hospital Compare Web page. But Yelp executives say the information is sometimes difficult to find and hard to sift through.

Does Yelp really think people scrolling through taco restaurant reviews are then going to check out hospitals and nursing homes?

"Many people think of the Yelp platform for finding great restaurants and hotels, and it certainly is," said Luther Lowe, Yelp's vice president for policy. But businesses in the health category make up 6 percent of reviewed businesses, and executives hope that with additional data, those reviews will grow.

"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," Lowe said.

Scott Klein, ProPublica's assistant managing editor, said millions of Yelp users will also have access to the news organization's data. In return, the news organization will have bulk access to all of Yelp's health-care reviews to use in research for news stories. ProPublica has not been given personal information about Yelp's users other than what is available on Yelp, he said.

Consumers have always been able to review medical businesses using Yelp's star-rating system. Those ratings will continue to be based on consumer reviews. What's different now is the additional data that will pop up.

Yelp said it relied on ProPublica's expertise in choosing which metrics to show on Yelp and how best to explain the information to consumers.

The hospital data shows the ER wait time, the quality of doctor communications with patients and the level of noise in patient rooms, all of which is based on patient satisfaction surveys conducted for Medicare.

The nursing-home information includes fines paid for serious deficiencies and any payment suspensions because of poor performance.

Data for dialysis clinics includes information about how often kidney patients were readmitted to the hospital and the clinic's death rate.

People viewing the data can hover their cursors over the information icon on the page to pull up additional explanations.

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