Zagat Dives into Local Health Ratings With WellPoint/Anthem

Zagat, the publisher of consumer reviews and guides for restaurants, nightlife, hotels and attractions, has licensed out its name and reviewer system to WellPoint. The health care insurer will publish Zagat-branded health reviews for its WellPoint and Anthem BlueCross customers, reportsThe New York Times. 

The product extension for Zagat, which has local guides in major cities around the world, is the first rollout of a broad licensing deal that Zagat made in January 2008 with WellPoint (which owns Anthem), GooglePriceline.com and Diageo, the liquor conglomerate. 

New York-based Zagat has 110 staffers after layoffs of 19 workers in December. Paid Content reportedthat the company had hired Goldman Sachs to find buyers in early 2008 but backed off when it couldn’t attract offers close to its target of $200 million. 

Under terms of the health deal, WellPoint is in charge of summarizing and presenting consumer health ratings, which will be mostly behind its member login firewall. Currently, The Times reports that the reviews have been rolled out to two million WellPoint and Anthem members in southern California, Ohio and Connecticut, as well as 3.7 million Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers in North Carolina that aren’t unaffiliated with Anthem or WellPoint.

WellPoint said it planned to add health reviews in San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento this year and eventually at other WellPoint and independent Blue Cross plans. The rollout follows other “inexpert” health rating rollouts by others, including Healthgrades.com, which is syndicated by several newspapers, and Angie’s List, which launched its service in July and is selling advertising around the health reports. 

There has been a sense of caution around consumer health reviews, and both services caution that users should only use reviews as a “supplemental” resource. Mike Rutz, who is the architect of Angie’s List health strategies (and speaking on Day 1 of Kelsey’s Marketplaces conference March 16-18 in LA), told us that consumer reviews have proved to be meaningful for health since wellness is greatly impacted by such issues as a doctors’ bedside manner, office hygiene, staff attitudes and other things that can be readily observed by patients.