Pregnant women in California can now shop for a maternity hospital the same way they choose a restaurant or a beauty salon – by comparing them online.
Yelp, the popular website that connects consumers to businesses, has joined with the California Health Care Foundation to provide information about hospitals that deliver babies to help moms-to-be and their families make a decision about where to have their babies.
The data to compare hospitals includes the rate for low-risk cesarean sections, the percent of newborns fed only breast milk before going home, the rate of episiotomies performed, if the hospital routinely schedules vaginal births after prior C-sections and how often vaginal births occur at the hospital among women with prior C-sections.
The information is now available on the Yelp website. A mobile app will be added soon.
The data is for 250 hospitals in the state that deliver 500,000 babies a year.
Yelp uses clinical measures that are already accessible online at a hospital quality website funded by the health care foundation and operated by Cal Hospital Compare, a nonprofit organization. But putting the information on Yelp makes it more visible to consumers, says Stephanie Teleki, director of evaluation and impact at California Health Care Foundation. “We’re trying to get the data we think is important for consumers to see that is actually in a place that they go – it’s a bigger megaphone for the consumer quality measures.”
What we’re doing is coupling clinical quality data with patient experience data on Yelp.
Stephanie Teleki, California Health Care Foundation official
Yelp also includes consumer commentary. And that’s what makes it a unique test case for comparing maternity wards, the foundation says.
Yelp consumer ratings have been found to be consistent with patient experiences collected on hospital patient surveys, Teleki says. “What we’re doing is coupling clinical quality data with patient experience data on Yelp.”
Reviews on Yelp are not new to most hospitals. The foundation says many California hospitals already have Yelp accounts and monitor the reviews and page traffic, and virtually all have at least one review.
Saint Agnes Medical Center in northeast Fresno has a Yelp account and responds to reviews, says Kelley Sanchez, hospital spokeswoman. “Sometimes they’re actually able to fix things in real time if there’s an issue or concern.”
Consumers are demanding transparency and the hospital supports that, Sanchez says. But she cautions consumers that the Yelp comparison measurements may not reflect everything. For example, Saint Agnes is very close to becoming a “Baby Friendly” hospital for its efforts at increasing the rate of exclusive breast feeding of babies while they are in the hospital.
And Sanchez says many consumers are sharing their experiences on social media sites that are solely dedicated to pregnant women and new moms.
Dr. Thomas Utecht, vice president and chief medical officer at Community Medical Centers, says Yelp will be another avenue for consumer feedback. “We already measure patient satisfaction, however, and we also constantly measure against nationwide clinical standards. And I’m proud to say our patient satisfaction and clinical performance both score high. So Yelp probably will have little effect on hospital operations.”
A Yelp app for maternity care would have made choosing a hospital easier, says Adriana Robles, 26, of Porterville. Robles gave birth to her first child, a girl, two week ago at Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville. She checked online for information about the hospital, but she can’t remember the website she found. Going to Yelp “would be much better,” she says. Comments from patients on their delivery experiences “would be more helpful.”
Teleki says Yelp’s combination of personal experiences and quality measurements is important in the mothers-to-be decision-making. “I wouldn’t want to base all my choice just on consumer ratings, I’d want to marry that with some of the clinical knowledge as well.”
The health care foundation hopes that the information available through Yelp will encourage hospital improvement. Where women have babies can affect the outcomes for mothers and babies, the foundation says. The partnership with Yelp, for example, is part of a larger statewide effort to reduce the rate of unnecessary first birth C-sections at California hospitals for low-risk deliveries.
C-sections, under certain conditions, are necessary, but health officials are concerned that unnecessary procedures can pose serious health risks for babies and mothers. And rates at hospitals vary widely, depending on the doctor and the institution where babies are delivered. California C-section hospital rates range from 15 percent to more than 60 percent.
Last October, California congratulated 104 hospitals for reducing C-sections for first-time moms with low risk pregnancies to a rate of 23.9 or lower, a federal goal. Four hospitals in the central San Joaquin Valley met the rate: Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Kaiser Permanente-Fresno, Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville and Tulare Regional Medical Center.