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Home Health You and Your Family

You & Your Family

MEDICARE MAKES IT EASIER TO FIND RIGHT NURSING HOME By BOB MOOS/Southwest public affairs officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

 

Finding the right nursing home for yourself or a loved one just got easier.

Medicare recently improved its Nursing Home Compare website, adding more detailed information about the nation’s 17,000 nursing homes and making it simpler to use.

Families often must search for a nursing home for a spouse or parent at a moment’s notice, after some crisis or emergency.  With no time to spare, many have turned to Nursing Home Compare to begin their research. More than a half-million visited the site in the first half of 2012.

Nursing Home Compare provides data on recent health and safety inspections, nursing homes’ staffing and such quality measures as whether residents are in pain or losing weight.

The website uses a five-star rating system to help families understand the differences between nursing homes. Each facility receives a star rating for its overall performance and separate star ratings for its recent inspections, staffing levels and quality measures.

The health and safety inspections are from the last three years and include any substantiated findings from complaint investigations.

Nursing homes must meet more than 180 standards, such as safely managing medications, protecting residents from abuse and properly preparing food. When inspectors find deficiencies, Medicare may assess penalties. Nursing Home Compare lists those fines and payment denials.

As one of its recent improvements, the website now provides the full text of the inspection reports on individual nursing homes, including descriptions of any problems detected.

Though nursing homes have been required to make their most recent inspection results available to the public, the fact that such information is now accessible with a few clicks on a computer mouse will help families that are pressed for time and trying to compare facilities.

Besides inspection results, Nursing Home Compare gives visitors a snapshot of nursing homes’ staffing levels, which can have a big impact on their quality of care.

The website shows the number of staff hours per resident per day at each nursing home. It reports the overall nursing level and also breaks down the number according to the type of staff, such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants and physical therapists.

Next, Nursing Home Compare reports on how well individual nursing homes do on 18 measures of quality, including the percentage of a facility’s residents with urinary tract infections, the percentage suffering from incontinence and the prevalence of pressure ulcers.

Medicare just added two new measures on the use of anti-psychotic medications as part of a broader effort to improve dementia care and curb the over-drugging of nursing home patients.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the redesigned Nursing Home Compare also now provides information about those responsible for each nursing home’s operation, listing the names of individuals and organizations with ownership or managerial control of the facility.

By far, though, the website’s star ratings remain the most popular feature. The top-performing 10 percent of the nursing homes in each state score five stars, while the worst-performing 20 percent rate a single star. The middle 70 percent receive two, three or four stars.

As helpful as the star ratings are, they aren’t meant to be the final word on a nursing home’s quality of care. They’re simply a screening tool that lets families focus on a few facilities that interest them. The families can then have an informed conversation with a nursing home’s staff when they visit.

Medicare hopes the more detailed website and the increased public scrutiny will help nursing home leaders pinpoint problems in their facilities and promptly correct them. Owners who don’t will be left to explain to a prospective resident why their nursing home compares so poorly against other facilities.

Check out Nursing Home Compare’s new features at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare

 

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