Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Rating System for Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced this week the implementation of a new rating system for nursing homes. Nursing homes will soon be rated on a 5-star scale, similar to the way hotels and restaurants are currently rated by critics, with one star being the lowest rating and five stars the highest possible rating. The new system is designed to assist families in determining the best facilities in their area. The new system will appear on Medicare’s “Nursing Home Compare” Web site, hopefully before the end of 2008.

Nursing Home Compare basic staffing information, general findings of inspection reports for the past three years, and a list of quality indicators. Quality indicators include the percentage of residents subject to some form of restraint; percentage of residents with pressure sores; and percentage of residents who have lost too much weight. Some have criticized the current Web site as being difficult to navigate.

The new system is designed to make it easier for consumers to evaluate a home and distinguish one facility’s performance from another. Proponents of the new system believe it will hold nursing homes accountable and force underperforming facilities to improve their standard of care.

CMS is currently holding a period of public comment to determine the best method of translating inspection reports and quality indicators into star ratings and to allow the public to suggest other information that should be included in the ratings. Many hope that the ratings will take into consideration resident satisfaction surveys, which most homes already conduct on an annual basis. Advocates of including these survey results in the ratings state that it is important to give the families of the residents some input in the facility’s rating. The first ratings are expected to be completed by December. Ratings will be updated quarterly.

Regardless of the new rating system, it is important to personally check out a nursing facility. A rating system should not be a substitute for your own observations and best judgment. If you have a comment, feel free to post it here, but keep in mind your posting will not be confidential. If you have a question or need assistance with a matter involving a nursing home or assisted living facility, call my office for immediate assistance. Thanks for reading my blog.