Senior Living Referral Site Targets Yelp Model for Senior Care

A San Diego, Calif-based startup is furthering its footprint in the senior living and care referral space, joining a flock of newcomers that are hoping to carve out a corner of a market otherwise dominated by lead industry giants.

ChipperList, taking cues from the online Yelp review business model, offers free reviews of senior living communities in the San Diego area; however, unlike Yelp, the reviews on ChipperList are written by industry experts hired by the senior living review company. 

Providers can pay to upgrade their profiles on the site, such as by adding photos and/or video.

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Olivenhain Guest Home recently opted to upgrade its ChipperList profile to boost the memory care community’s online presence, says Owner and Operator Hank Kurtz. 

“A lot of people looking for Alzheimer’s or dementia care weren’t aware we were here and what kind of unique services we offer,” Kurtz says of the Encinitas, Calif.-based community, adding that about 60% of the company’s referrals come from word of mouth. “I was looking for an avenue to reach a larger audience and to explain what we do here and why it’s different.”

While both Yelp and ChipperList post business information and reviews online, ChipperList hires local, qualified reviewers to tour facilities and only publishes those expert-written reviews, as opposed to allowing anyone to post comments on the site.

“Someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or a disgruntled employee, can post a negative review on other review sites,” says ChipperList Founder Chip Allen. “That’s why providers love that there’s no user reviews.”

Ratings, based on a one to five star scale, reflect what’s gleaned from the tour and a facility’s inspection reports. Operators are told that review writers visiting the facility are with ChipperList.

“We promote ones that provide good care, ranking at three stars or more, so families can find that listing,” Allen says, noting that the company makes money through advertising. Providers do not pay for reviews. 

“We’ll tour anyone,” he says. “And put up a review, good or bad.”

With a year under its belt, and nearly 50 communities profiled in the San Diego area, the company has its sights sets on expanding north along the California coast, Allen says.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from community partners,” Allen says. “Doctors will tell us that since they have no way to tell somebody what’s a good senior living community or a bad one, they point people to the website. We offer one review per community that the consumer can trust.”

Initially conceived as a directory and ratings website similar to hotels.com, Allen saw differences between the two markets that required more in-depth information for the senior living sector.

Citations or deficiencies for poor quality care from the state are difficult for the consumer to access, driving ChipperList’s inclusion of such documents’ findings on the site, he says.

A typical review includes the good, bad and bottom line assessment of a facility, including detailed information about services, amenities and a first person account of touring the campus.

Some care referral sites only match consumers with senior care providers they’re partnered with, or give higher preference to communities that have paid for enhanced listings, whether or not they’re the best fit. 

Another site aiming to bring transparency to the senior living industry through third-party reviews is Chicago-based Golden Reviews. The company offers certification to providers through a golden seal, that like ChipperList’s reviews, cannot be bought, only earned.

“The industry is ripe for disruption, whether it’s [Golden Reviews] or somebody else,” Leo Friedman, founder of Golden Reviews, told SHN earlier this year. “That disruptor will slowly gain market share, and in my opinion, it’s going to be through transparency and insight.”

Kurtz is hopeful that utilizing companies like ChipperList along with other, larger lead companies will grab the attention of the right potential tenants and their families.

“Moving forward, I hope to see more traffic to our website,” he says. “And people scheduling tours.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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