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Aug. 5, 2015, 1:07 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: www.washingtonpost.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   August 5, 2015

ProPublica is a big fan of partnerships, whether with The New York Times or NPR, to help spread investigative journalism far and wide. But now the nonprofit is partnering with…Yelp?

ProPublica is collaborating with the recommendation app to help provide better health care information on medical facilities and other providers. The idea is that finding a good doctor, nursing home, or dialysis clinic in your neighborhood will now be as easy as finding a reliable taco joint.

The data is shaped in user-friendly ways, similar to other features on Yelp. Instead of noting whether a place has wifi and if it’s good for kids, the health care data notes a provider’s wait time, noise level in patient rooms, and how well a doctor communicates with patients.

The partnership fits well with many of ProPublica’s other data-related projects: taking information that is often available publicly and making it more accessible to people. It’a also another way, much like ProPublica’s Data Store, to give new life to information the newsroom has already cleaned up and analyzed.

Luther Lowe, Yelp’s vice president for policy, told Lena Sun in The Washington Post they’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.”

Where, exactly, does the underlying data come from?

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.

In exchange for facilitating the health data, ProPublica will get access to users’ health care-related reviews from Yelp. The reviews, which could be used in research for future ProPublica stories, will be anonymized.

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