ringful-logoWhen I’m looking for a hospital (which isn’t all that often), my iPhone isn’t the first place I look, or the second, but mobile health startup Ringful wants to change that. It just released a new application called Hospital Compare.

hospital-compareThe interface is pretty simple. You enter a zip code or let the app use your iPhone GPS, then it provides a list of nearby hospitals. There are other apps that do this, such as iHealth Ventures‘ Find a Hospital, but Hospital Compare provides much more than just a location list. If you select a hospital, you get information about how the facility stacked up in Medicare survey data in more than 100 categories, such as the cleanliness of rooms and the communication skills of doctors. If you select multiple hospitals, the app compares them and also shows you the average results in the state and nation.

You can filter hospitals based on the medical conditions they treat or the surgical procedures they provide. The app costs $2.99.

The one drawback I discovered is the difficulty in focusing on a specific category that’s important to you. For example, if you wanted to see the average medicare payment for a kidney and bladder operation, you’d have to scroll down to the middle of the comparison list — there’s no obvious way to search. That’s probably something Ringful can tweak in later versions, so I suppose the bigger question is whether people want to do this kind of detailed research on their phones. You could just do the initial comparison on your phone, then email the results to yourself or to others for a closer look.

Austin, Texas-based Ringful has developed a number of medical mobile applications, and it launched at the DEMOfall 09 conference.