HDScores: Standardizing Data from Health Department Inspections

October 22, 2012

4:00 pm

Kitchen nightmare shows entertain over six million viewers a week, and the popularity of the genre doesn’t show signs of slowing.

Rooted in these heavily produced food rehab shows is the reality that restaurants need to consistently meet inspection standards set out by local and state health departments. These inspection reports are publicly available by law, yet they are often difficult to access because of the format the data. With over 3,200 local, state and federal health departments/agencies across the US & Canada all reporting data sets in different formats, there is a need to standardize the data.

This is where Baltimore’s HDScores comes in. CEO and founder Matthew Eierman, a trained chef as well as a serial entrepreneur, recognized the issues in accessing the data firsthand. Eierman agreed to help friends who purchased a restaurant locate inspection scores on the establishment. Two and a half hours after the search started, Eierman finally found the data, and realized there had to be an easier way.

HDScores, founded in early 2012, is working on building a better way to solve and communicate issues related to health department inspection data and data management, without taking over or replacing the work of the local, state, and federal agencies. “We don’t want to change the process,” explains Eierman, “we just want to put the data in a format that is geo-located, easier to search, as well as globalized and standardized.”

By unifying and creating transparency, HDScores aims to make it easier for consumers and clients to access and understand health department inspection score data and to make decisions based on their findings. In addition to restaurant-goers, owners, and health departments, potential clients for HDScores include large franchises, government agencies, culinary schools, and web-based restaurant services like Urbanspoon, Yelp, OpenTable and the media.

Historical data, as well as factors grounded in the experience of the team and advisory board, determines how HDScores ‘scores’ inspection reports. The team, which includes Eierman, Matthew Fleischer as COO, and Sanford Richardson as CFO (HDScores is currently look for a CTO) is in the process of building a “proprietary grading model that will not only standardize the data across jurisdictions, but will also improve the accuracy of health inspection grades.” For example, a restaurant could have the same violation for multiple years and not get further penalized for not correcting the problem. HDScores’ algorithms will analyze historical reports and add values and grades to violations across multiple reports in the same establishment, creating a more accurate analysis.

HDScores is preparing for launch – visit the website to sign up to be notified when the service is live. The team is also one of the featured startups at Tech Cocktail’s Baltimore Mixer & Startup Showcase.

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Marla Shaivitz is a writer, developer and digital marketer. She’s interested in innovations & innovators in technology and those working toward social good. Follow Marla on Twitter at @marlashaivitz.

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