To help families make informed decisions when placing a loved one in a nursing facility, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services maintains a “Nursing Home Compare” web site. This is a searchable database of skilled nursing facilities nationwide. It ranks facilities in four areas: staffing, quality measures, health inspections, and overall rating. A facility may receive up to five stars on each of these measures.
Effective October 23, 2019, a red “halt” sign is displayed next to facilities that have been cited for (1) abuse that led to harm of a resident within the past year, or (2) abuse that in each of the past two years could have led to a resident’s harm. Twenty five Florida facilities were labeled with the alert icon as of Oct. 23. The warning icon will be updated monthly and removed as appropriate, as new inspection reports become available.
The new consumer alert icon is intended for “incentivizing nursing homes to compete on cost and quality,” said Seema Verma, CMS Administrator. However, those in the health care industry argue that the new icon does a disservice to both the facility and the public. Among their objections: the definitions of “abuse” and “neglect” are not clear; the foreboding “stop” icon deters individuals from further investigating a facility that may in fact be well-suited to their loved one’s needs; and the icon may actually deter facilities from reporting incidents.
Another criticism of the database is that it does not include rankings of patient satisfaction. Mark Parkinson, spokesman for the American Health Care Association, has stated that “…CMS should add customer satisfaction to Nursing Home Compare because that is the best way for consumers to select facilities. It’s surprising that we can look for customer reviews of restaurants and hotels that we select, but that information isn’t available for nursing homes.”
In the end, there is no substitute for visiting a nursing home personally and evaluating it. Medicare offers a comprehensive checklist of issues to consider when you visit. Download it here.