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‘Stay Far, Far Away’ And Other Things Gleaned From Yelp Health Reviews

'Stay Far, Far Away' And Other Things Gleaned From Yelp Health Reviews

by Charles Ornstein ProPublica, Aug. 6, 2015, 5 a.m.

This story was co-published with NPR's Shots blog.

Dental patients really don't like Western Dental. Not its Anaheim, California clinic: "I hate this place!!!" one reviewer wrote on the rating site Yelp. Or one of its locations in Phoenix: "Learn from my terrible experience and stay far, far away."

In fact, the chain of low-cost dental clinics, which has more Yelp Inc (NYSE:YELP) reviews than any other health provider, has been repeatedly, often brutally, panned in some 3,000 online critiques 2014379 include the word "horrible." Its average rating: 1.8 out of five stars.

Patients on Yelp aren't fans of the ubiquitous lab testing company Quest Diagnostics either. The word "rude" appeared in 13 percent of its 2,500 reviews (average 2.7 stars). "It's like the seventh level of hell," one reviewer wrote of a Quest lab in Greenbrae, California.

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.

"Rudest office staff ever. Also incompetent. I will settle for rude & competent or polite & incompetent. But both rude & incompetent is unacceptable," wrote one Yelp reviewer of a New York internist.

ProPublica and Yelp recently agreed to a partnership, which will allow information from ProPublica's interactive health databases to begin appearing on Yelp's health provider pages. In addition to reading about consumers' experiences with hospitals, nursing homes and doctors, Yelp users will see objective data about how the providers' practice patterns compare to their peers.

As part of the relationship, ProPublica gets an unprecedented peek inside Yelp's vast trove of 1.3 million health reviews. To search and sort, we used RevEx, a tool built for us by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Though Yelp has become synonymous with restaurant and store reviews, an analysis of its health profiles shows some interesting trends. On the whole people are happy 2014 there are far more five-star ratings than one star. But when they weren't, they let it be known. Providers with the most reviews generally had poorer ratings.

Of the top 10 most-reviewed health providers, only Elements Massage, a national chain, and LaserAway, a tattoo and laser hair removal company with locations in California and Arizona, had an average rating of at least four stars.

Western Dental did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Dennis Moynihan, a spokesman for Madison, New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics, said the company has more than 2,200 patient service centers around the country and had 51...


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