Nursing Home Compare: Improved Quality or Inaccuracy?

On March 2nd, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an overhaul of its Nursing Home Compare tool, implementing 21 new quality measures to take place of the former 17. The changes, pioneered by the National Quality Forum (NQF), are designed to help consumers better compare quality of care when choosing a nursing home and monitor the quality of care once a loved one has been placed in a facility. Nursing Home Ratings

The new quality measures are also a tool for facilities to compare their performance against their competitors and can also serve as a benchmark for implementing quality improvement and staff training. According to Medical News Today, it’s working, referring to a five-year study funded by the National Institute on Aging. Jacqueline S. Zinn, professor of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management at Temple University and co-author of the study, says that facilities which made major investments in staffing and equipment report that the improvements were implemented as a direct result of Nursing Home Compare.

Researchers found that skilled nursing facilities with low quality scores were three times more likely to make such investments than facilities which already had high ratings. They conclude that most nursing homes believe that Nursing Home Compare influences decision-making.

While a high rating is welcomed by most facilities, those who need to improve their scores may have a hard time making an immediate impact. On April 23rd, CMS made the decision to freeze current ratings for a six-month duration. Facilities which had a great first quarter are undaunted, while those with not-so-good ratings are less than thrilled about the potential impact it can have on admissions and census. The freeze enables CMS to collect data from the new MDS 3.0, on which the 21 new quality measures are based.

Beginning in July, McKnight’s Long Term Care News says that even more data and functionality will be at consumers’ fingertips. When reviewing ratings, consumers will see the number of substantiated complaints and enforceable actions a facility has received, which includes such things as denial of payment and civil monetary penalties. Unhappy consumers can now submit complaints much more seamlessly, by downloading a standardized form that can be faxed to CMS. Ouch. If you think that’s bad news, consider that provider advocates succeeded in their fight against having all complaints (not just substantiated complaints) published on the site.

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