CMS TO RATE NURSING HOME QUALITY NEW FIVE-STAR SYSTEM TO BE ADDED TO NURSING HOME COMPARE SITE
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today announced it will soon launch a ground-breaking ranking system of America’s nursing homes, giving each a “star” rating. CMS is requesting comments on the system designed to provide patients and their families an easy to understand assessment of nursing home quality, making meaningful distinctions between high performing and low performing homes.
The ratings will be posted on the agency’s Nursing Home Compare Web site by the end of this year. A sample screen shot of the proposed star ratings is available at www.cms.hhs.gov/PressContacts/10_PR_fivestar.asp. Medicare Compare can be found at www.medicare.gov.
“More than three million Americans rely on services provided by a nursing home at some point during the year. The new “five-star” rating system will provide a composite view of the quality and safety information currently on Nursing Home Compare to help beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily,” said Kerry Weems, CMS acting administrator.
Through its consumer information Web sites, CMS has begun to offer more and better information on the quality, patient satisfaction, and cost of care. Today’s announcement, for example, closely follows the agency’s first nationwide identification of chronically underperforming nursing homes. Facilities enrolled in the Special Focus Facility (SFF) initiative are placed under special scrutiny and undergo twice as many inspections as other homes. The “SFF” designation was recently added to the Nursing Home Compare Web site at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.
Last year, CMS also initiated a star rating system for health and prescription drug plans that are available to Medicare beneficiaries.
This will be the first time that CMS will offer such a rating system for the fee-for-service, or traditional Medicare program. Currently, through the Compare Web site, CMS assists beneficiaries and their families in making nursing home choices by providing information on individual measures of quality of care, staffing, and survey inspection information.
“Nursing Home Compare’s new rating system will also provide an incentive for nursing homes to strive toward earning a five-star rating by providing an environment of better quality care,” Weems said.
This new rating system is rooted in the tradition of the OBRA’87 nursing home reform law and quality improvement campaigns such as the Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Homes, a collaborative coalition of consumers, health care providers, labor, and nursing home professionals. CMS plans to work with other health care providers and consumers to make similar rating systems available for hospitals, home health agencies, and end-stage renal disease facilities in the future.
The agency is also considering adding new information to that already available on Nursing Home Compare such as whether a nursing home specializes in caring for patients with dementia, on ventilators, or in need of specialized rehabilitation services. Information on patient and family satisfaction with services at a facility may also be added to Nursing Home Compare. A “Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home,” a publication that includes information about the types of long-term care, local nursing home comparisons, and how to pay for nursing home care, can also be found on the site.
The five-star rating system will begin to be published in December 2008. During June and July 2008 the agency is soliciting ideas, comments, and suggestions from the public, consumer groups, nursing homes, and many others. Comments may be sent to BetterCare@cms.hhs.gov.
Descriptive information about the quality rating system and its progress may be obtained after June 22, 2008 on the CMS “Hot Topics” webpage at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/SurveyCertificationGenInfo/02_HotTopics.asp#TopOfPage. This webpage will also provide details about a national conference call (called an “open door forum”) that the agency will have about the proposed five-star system on June 24, 2008.
“While Nursing Home Compare is very informative, it is important to note that this should be just one of the tools that family members and caregivers use in the selection of a nursing home,” Weems said. “There is no substitute for visiting a nursing home in person and meeting with staff, residents, and other families.”