Starting next month, two new quality tracking measures will be included in Nursing Home Compare, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) nursing home information and rating system. Hospitalization rates for long-term nursing home residents will now be tracked and reported publicly on the site, as well as staffing data for non-nursing staff. Both categories are considered by CMS to be critical for determining the level of care being provided at nursing homes.
For each nursing home participating in Medicare and Medicaid, Nursing Home Compare currently includes 6 general categories of information, divided into tabs.
- General Information: Name, location, number of beds, affiliation (non-profit, hospital-affiliated, etc)
- Health Inspections: The results of health inspections by governing agencies, the number of citations
- Fire Safety Inspections: The results of fire safety inspections
- Staffing: Nursing staff average hours per resident, per day
- Quality of Resident Care: Short-stay and long-term resident data relating to pressure ulcers, hospital visits (short-stay residents only as of now), flu shots, pneumonia vaccinations, depression symptoms, ability to move around independently, and other quality measures relating to resident health.
- Penalties: Federal fines assessed
The new information for long-term resident hospitalization will soon be included in tab #5, under Quality of Resident Care. Staffing information will soon be included in tab #4 (Staffing).
Quality Indicator 1: Hospitalization Rates for Long-Term Nursing Home Residents
In 2015, CMS began to address repeat hospital visits for short-term nursing home residents, those who come to a nursing home from a hospital to recover from a surgery, injury, or illness. The lower the percentage, the better, as the aim of a nursing home stay following an acute issue is to rehabilitate and return the patient to their own home.
Hospital visits by long-term residents, those who call a nursing home their primary residence, were largely left untracked. While other health measures for long-term residents were measured and reported, hospital visits were left untracked. This year, CMS has attempted to cut down on the epidemic of ‘boomerang’ hospitalizations by nursing home residents. Boomerang hospitalizations are repeat hospital visits by nursing home residents within 30 days of being discharge from a hospital. 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries who go to a nursing home following a hospitalization are back there within a month. In October, the government agency will begin a bonus/penalty program that will reward nursing homes with lower rehospitalization rates for short-stay and long-term nursing home residents.
Quality Indicator 2: Staffing Data
According to CMS, staffing is an indicator of quality because it gives both regulators and the public an idea of the tenure of staff, turnover frequency, and the level of staff that they maintain. In August 2015, CMS passed a new rule that nursing staff hours would have to be submitted electronically each fiscal quarter. Searching a facility through Nursing Home Compare today would turn up a staffing report that includes the average number of residents per day, along with per resident per day averages of hours worked by RNs, LPN/LVNs, nurse aides, and physical therapists.
With the new requirement, staffing hours for a large number of both clinical and non-clinical staff must be submitted, including data for the nursing home administrator, the medical director, the director of nursing, pharmacists, social workers, and dieticians.
The exact date that staffing data and long-stay resident hospitalizations will be available on Nursing Home Compare is not known, but CMS reports that it will be in sometime in July. Nursing Home Compare is a useful tool when deciding on a nursing home or deciding if your loved one’s nursing home could be doing better. However, we always encourage families to consider more than just this rating system when making such a life-changing decision. See our May post about researching nursing home options.
Levin & Perconti: Chicago’s Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
If you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home, good ratings on Nursing Home Compare are meaningless. Do not let a positive rating deter you from challenging the facility for the truth. You deserve to get both answers and justice from the nursing home responsible for mistreating your loved one. You need an attorney with experience taking on nursing homes.
Contact the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti for help. Our consultations are always free and we have a nearly 30 year track record of success in challenging nursing homes to tell the truth and make things right.