Want To Know Your Hospital’s C-Section Rate? Yelp Is On The Way.

You might check Yelp reviews before deciding where to go to dinner, or which plumber to hire. Now you can use the website to decide where to have a baby.

San Francisco-based Yelp is now adding clinical data on cesarean sections, episiotomies and breastfeeding rates to consumer reviews of California hospitals, so women can make better-informed decisions about where they deliver.

“Just like they’re using that kind of information to buy a car, they should be using it to think about where they’re getting their health care,” said Stephanie Teleki, director of evaluation and impact at the California Health Care Foundation, which is partnering with Yelp to publish C-section rates for nearly 250 hospitals, as well as other data. (California Healthline is an editorially independent publication of the California Health Care Foundation.)

A woman’s chance of having a C-section depends, in part, on where she delivers, Teleki explained. The more C-sections a hospital performs, the more likely a woman delivering there will have one.

Yelp’s maternity data is drawn from self-reported information from California hospitals, the California Department of Public Health and the state’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

Shannon Eis, vice president of communications at Yelp, said this would have been helpful information to have when she gave birth to her son in New York. It was her second baby, everything felt normal, when all of a sudden alarms started going off and she was rushed into an emergency C-section.

“I had never considered myself a C-section risk,” she said. “I later found out I gave birth at a hospital that has the highest emergency C-section rate in all of New York City.”

Eis said putting this data on Yelp will help women choose a hospital whose practices are aligned with their birth plan, so they won’t have to negotiate with doctors and make tough choices while they’re in labor.

“All these decisions are washing over you so fast,” she said. This helps women do more planning and avoid “pressure and fear” in a hospital that isn’t inclined to honor their decisions, she said.

The reaction from the state’s hospital industry group was low-key.

“We have always supported transparency — this effort simply takes it more directly to consumers,” said Jan Emerson-Shea, from the California Hospital Association. “We’ll have to see how it works.”

When the data first went public on government and foundation websites a few years ago, hospitals generally responded by trying to improve care for women, Teleki said. But, she said, she’s curious to see how hospitals will respond when those statistics are put right in front of consumers, through the online megaphone of Yelp.

“For hospitals that are doing well, that’s a good thing,” she said. “For hospitals that need to improve, I’m sure they will feel some heat and perhaps be discouraged about the release.”

California is the first state where Yelp is rolling out this data. With 1 in 8 American babies born here, Eis said, it’s the perfect place to test the product before rolling it out to other states.

“If the state of California can do this with the biggest data set in the country, the biggest birthrate in the country, any other state can do it,” she said.

This story is part of a partnership that includes KQED, NPR and Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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