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Nursing home quality data goes live. (The Nation).

In an attempt to help consumers make good choices in selecting nursing homes, the federal government has begun posting comparative quality data about the nation's long term care facilities at its Medicare Web site.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Web site at now features quality indicators. Nursing homes supply the information to the site from detailed reports they are already required to submit to state regulators.

Each facility's numerical scores will be posted on the site, where they may be compared to those of other nursing homes in the area, according to CMS.

CMS Administrator Tom Scully said the revamped site is an effort to address a public that is "starving for information." It's also an attempt to improve the state of long term health care.

Earlier this year the Department of Health and Human Services performed a six-month test-run of the new site in six states and found that more than half the nursing homes involved eventually sought out government contractors to help them improve quality.

Taking the program nationwide will "make the good homes shine," according to William Minnix Jr., president of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

But while some praise the product, the government's General Accounting Office (GAO) calls the new site's national rollout "premature."

The upgraded site's November 2002 debut "[did] not allow sufficient time to ensure the indicators it publishes are appropriate and useful to consumers," according to a GAO report issued a day after the revamped CMS site went online.

Critics also note that the average consumer may not be able to easily interpret the site's data, and that it doesn't give a complete picture of a nursing home's environment.

CMS officials stand by their product.

RELATED ARTICLE: Quality Indicators

New indicators measuring nursing home quality include:

* Percentage of residents who need more help from staff doing daily activities than they did when their need was last reviewed. The lower the percentage, the better the nursing home ranks.

* Number of residents who suffer from bed sores, which can indicate how often staff help residents change positions in bed.

* Number of residents with unhealthy weight loss, which can indicate unhealthy diet, undetected medical ailments or lack of medical attention.
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Article Details
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Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:Further investment, funding needed for pending Nurse Reinvestment Act. (The Nation).
Next Article:View from the hill. (The Nation).

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