Journalism in the Public Interest

ProPublica Launches Health Care API with Data from Major Investigations

NEW YORK – March 10, 2017 – ProPublica’s health care reporting has shined a light on numerous problems in the health care system: drug company payments to health care providers, patterns in prescription drug use, and patient harm, among others. To help patients navigate these issues better and achieve the best possible care, today ProPublica launched Vital Signs, an interactive web app that delivers important information across all of the nonprofit newsroom’s health care projects in one easy-to-use tool.

To build the app, ProPublica developers built and used the Vital Signs API, which also launched today. The tool harnesses quantitative and qualitative data from four ProPublica databases:

  • Dollars for Docs, which contains payments to doctors from pharmaceutical companies for speaking, consulting and other categories;
  • Prescriber Checkup, which compares how many prescriptions doctors write and for which drugs;
  • Treatment Tracker, which shows how much doctors charge Medicare for office visits and procedures;
  • Surgeon Scorecard, which reveals complication rates for surgeons performing eight common elective procedures in Medicare.

The API is designed for use by both consumer and B2B app creators whose tools help patients make more informed choices about their care. It can also be used by hospitals, insurance networks and other institutions that want to assess and compare the quality and costs of providers.

To provide actionable insights to users, the Vital Signs API focuses on unique findings from ProPublica’s reporting, including flags, relative metrics and other data that quickly identifies doctors as outliers among their peers. The API makes it easy for users to match Vital Signs data to other information they already have on doctors, using the unique National Provider Identifier assigned to each provider.

“In addition to generating new revenue to support our work, the Vital Signs API is another example of ProPublica’s constant move toward journalistic innovation,” said Celeste LeCompte, ProPublica’s director of business development. “ProPublica’s health care reporting offers countless opportunities to help patients manage the quality of their care, to help institutions identify and address problems with providers, and to reward those who provide high quality care. By creating an API, our data informs not only readers, but also the health professionals who see our reporting inside the tools they use every day. That is truly radical journalism.”

The Vital Signs API is a commercial product that will be widely available later this year. For now, it’s available only to participants in a closed beta testing program, and a limited number of additional beta users will be welcomed this spring. Those interested can sign up for the beta user waitlist here.


For more information, read “Introducing the Vital Signs API,” or contact Celeste LeCompte at

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. In 2010, it was the first online news organization to win a Pulitzer Prize. In 2011, ProPublica won its second Pulitzer, the first ever awarded to a body of work that did not appear in print, and in 2016 the newsroom won a third Pulitzer. In 2014, ProPublica won a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Leadership. ProPublica is supported primarily by philanthropy and offers its articles for republication, both through its website and directly to leading news organizations selected for maximum impact.


Photo by flickr user sparkieblues


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