“Nursing home selection can be a stressful and time-sensitive process, so these are important tools that CMS makes available to the public. However, our review found opportunities for improvement in both the website and the ratings,” concludes the report.
In the United States, nearly 16,000 nursing homes participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs provide care to 1.4 million Americans annually—a number that is expected to grow as baby boomers age. To help the growing population of seniors in need of such services, CMS developed Nursing Home Compare to assist consumers in finding and comparing nursing homes based on a five-star quality system.
Specifically, the GAO discovered several factors inhibiting the ability of the rating system to help users understand nursing home quality and choose between high- and low- performing homes—which is the primary goal that CMS is attempting to achieve.
To address these and other shortcomings, GAO made four recommendations to CMS on how it can improve the Nursing Home Compare website and make it a better tool for consumers:
- Establish a systematic process for
reviewing potential website improvements that includes and describes
steps on how CMS will prioritize the implementation of potential website
- Add information to the five-star system that allows consumers to compare nursing homes nationally.
- Evaluate the feasibility of adding consumer satisfaction information to the five-star system.
and test with consumers some introductory explanatory information on
the five-star system to be prominently displayed on the homepage. Such
information should explain, for example, how the overall rating is
calculated, the importance of the component ratings, where to find
information on the timeliness of the data, and whether the ratings can
be used to compare nursing homes nationally.
In its written comments, CMS concurred with three of the GAO’s four recommendations but did not agree to add national comparison information to the Nursing Home Compare website. The agency argued that because of state variation in the execution of standard surveys, it is difficult to compare homes nationally on the health inspection component. It also noted that the five-star system is just one of many factors consumers should use when selecting a nursing home.
However, GAO insists that this information is important and should be included.
“We maintain that the ability for consumers to compare nursing homes nationally is critical to making nursing home decisions, especially for those consumers who live near state borders or have multistate options, and that our recommendation remains valid,” states the report.
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GAO contends CMS website falls short in comparing nursing homes