While many health analysts usually point to California as the state for vanguard health movements, I keep my eye on Minnesota. Once again, I discovered a new-new health project that I expect will be a model that will be replicated.

The Health Care Scoop is among the first epinions.com-style websites where patient/consumers can log their opinions about local health care experiences with plans and providers. While many health plans have begun to provide report cards on quality and price lists for services, the Scoop is among the first social media websites provided by a health plan that allows the good, the bad, and the ugly to be written about providers, institutions…and the Blues Plans themselves.

In Jeremy Olsen’s reportage on the Scoop in the Pioneer Press, he noted that, “At least Blue Cross isn’t playing favorites. There have been 350 page views of a story entitled, ‘Terrible consumer feedback on coverage from Blue Cross.'”

With the tagline, “Patient reviews from people like you,” the Health Care Scoop is sponsored by Consumer Aware, which is a subsidiary of the non-profit holding company of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. The division in which The Health Care Scoop is housed, Consumer Aware, has as its mission the responsibility for developing consumer health information tools.

On my visit to the site this morning, the front page featured opinions covering a prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, a blood draw episode, “awesome” OB/GYNs at a particular medical center, an opinion about tobacco funds being wasted, the good and bad about a specific breast center, one consumer’s reversal of Type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise, Lasik surgery, and a great chiropracter. Thus, the range of opinions shared on the Scoop goes from the simple (e.g., blood tests) to the acute (e.g., cancer care).

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
The Health Care Scoop represents a pioneering beacon in the health information transparency movement. The site should get more valuable over time, as more consumer opinions flow into the site and the most passionate participants monitor the quality of the messaging. This process will take time and depends on a great number of consumers participating. Consumers should appreciate the fact that a health plan has opened up a forum where patients can speak up and share their experiences — good and bad. Sharing both (and not just the negative) will bolster the site’s usefulness. The Health Care Scoop should be an important resource for Minnesotans and others receiving care in the state to use on their journey as they learn how to be smarter health care consumers.