Accountability breeds improvements. It is the same is virtually all aspects of life and business. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers know that the same principles apply when it comes to ensuring that improper care at local assisted living facilities is rooted out and exposed for public scrutiny. If seniors and those with disabilities are allowed to suffer in silence, then there is little chance that their mistreatment will ever be changed. The facilities that are willing to allow poor care to become the norm at their facilities in the first place are usually the same ones that will not unilaterally make changes to improve that care unless they are forced.
The push to eliminate elder abuse and make nursing home safer is at the root of programs like the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s “Special Focus Facilities” (SFF). As our nursing home abuse lawyers have previously explained, this is a list that includes the worst performing facilities based on analysis from the previous three years. SFFs are expected to slowly improve after they make the dubious lists. In theory, they are given between eighteen and twenty four months to show signs of improvement. Failure to act appropriately and improve as expected is grounds for termination from participation in CMS programs. Considering that most homes rely heavily on CMS funds for survival, termination from the program is essentially a forced closure of the facility. A few statewide facilities that have been cited for Illinois nursing home neglect are current deemed SFFs.
However, a new study published in Medicare Advocacy suggests that the data collection methods used by CMS to evaluate homes and create the SFF list are flawed. At the root of the problem is the self-reporting aspect of the evaluation process. Those involved in this latest research found that there was disconnect between the self-reported figures sent in by the SFF facilities itself and the survey data collected on the same measures. This was found in staffing levels as well as various other quality measures (such as “level of pain”).
It is suggested that the discrepancy suggests that the data that is self-reported for the homes is unreliable. If there are not audits on a facility’s staffing and quality measures data, then it is difficult to trust any of the findings that they include. This doubt cases suspicion on all proposals which would seek to “streamline” the process and allow less thorough inspections or surveys for certain facilities.
Overall, the authors of the study made the following recommendations in light of their findings:
1. All self-reported data, including staffing and quality of care measure be removed from inclusion in the Nursing Home Compare data.
2.“Pain” be removed as a quality measure for comparison purposes
3. No SFF be given more than one total star (out of a five star system) until it is removed from the SFF list. Otherwise, the authors argue, consumers are often misled into thinking that these homes are performing better than in actuality.
4. All policy proposals be rejected which would revise the federal survey process which includes or relies on self-reporting.
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