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Help In Rating Nursing Homes

It may not tell you whether the nurses speak sweetly to your grandmother, but the U.S. government said it was publishing the first database meant to help people choose a good nursing home.

The pilot project provides information on homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, the Department of Health and Human Services said.

"By generating and publishing quality data, we are both helping consumers to make decisions that best meet their needs and creating market incentives for nursing homes to further improve quality," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement.

"Later this year, we will begin reporting quality measures for nursing homes nationwide."

The information, published on Medicare's Internet site at http://www.medicare.gov, is part of an HHS project called the Nursing Home Quality Initiative, aimed at improving the quality of care received by 2.9 million Americans in nursing homes.

"Our first step is this pilot program for nursing homes. Next year we plan to expand our public education efforts to other health care providers," said Tom Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

"Over the next few months of the pilot we'll be testing and tweaking the information to make sure that it is truly useful to consumers and helpful to the nursing homes in their efforts to improve the care they are providing to their residents."

The nine measures of nursing home quality were recommended by the National Quality Forum, an independent organization that sets standards based on input from public and private purchasers, consumers, providers and researchers.

They include:

  • The percentage of residents who need more help from staff doing daily activities
  • The percentage of residents who have certain types of infection
  • The percentage of residents who have lost too much weight
  • The percentage of residents with very bad pain at any time or moderate pain every day over the last week
  • The percentage of residents with bed sores
  • The percentage of residents in physical restraints
  • The percentage of short-stay residents who have symptoms of delirium
  • The percentage of short stay residents with very bad pain at any time or moderate pain daily for the last week
  • The percentage of short stay residents whose walking has improved

    Dr. Larry Minnix, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, said consumers should also ask hard questions when choosing a home.

    "Personal visits and information gathered from a variety of sources are just as important when evaluating nursing homes," Minnix told the news conference.

    "It is important ... to visit homes and ask, 'Is the atmosphere clean, pleasant and inviting? Does the staff make me feel welcome?"'

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