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Report: Government to Issue Tougher Nursing Home Ratings

Choosing a nursing home for a loved one can be a difficult and painful decision. For many, finding a facility with a good reputation and acceptable government inspection reports is critical.

Regulators tried to make the process easier, starting in December 2008 with its Nursing Home Compare website, which graded nursing homes across the country according to a set of criteria. Centers were rated on a scale of one-to-five stars, with one star being the lowest and five stars being the highest.

However, recent evaluations of the grading criteria showed it was actually far too easy for a center to obtain a top-quality rating, despite evidence of improper care practices. Namely, there is an increasing degree of scrutiny involving the rates at which nursing homes rely on dangerous antipsychotic drugs to subdue patients with dementia – a purpose for which those drugs aren’t approved.

For this reason, the government is changing the way it rates nursing homes, making it tougher to attain that five-star rating.

Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse attorneys support this measure, as it is likely to grant families greater insight into the level of care their relatives are receiving. While a 4- or 3-star rating home may still provide decent care, at least families can be alerted to potential areas of concern so they can be watchful of any developing problems on those fronts.

One of the stronger critiques of the Compare system has always been that it relied too heavily on self-reported data. That has meant that scores were mostly high, which contradicted independent evidence indicating many facilities were delivering sub-par care. In many cases, highly-rated nursing homes were plagued with numerous problems, and had faced fines and other enforcement action.

The New York Times reported last year that two of the three criteria used to rate the facilities – quality measure statistics and staffing levels – are self-reported and not subject to audits by the federal government.

Now, that will change, and we will likely see a number of the 15,000 nursing home ratings could drop a full star rating or more, even though nothing may have actually changed.

The government already started last fall requiring nursing homes to start reporting their staffing levels quarterly using electronic systems that can be verified against payroll data. Additionally, the government is implementing a new national-scale auditing program that will allow it to check whether a facility’s quality statistic is indeed correct. The score will also factor in the commonality of antipsychotic drugs at a given site.

Collectively, these measures are going to make it tougher for facilities to receive the highest-level score. When the program first started, 11 percent of nursing homes had a five-star rating. That figure quickly shot up to 29 percent by 2013. But officials say that isn’t exactly accurate, and the changes should level the results to a more accurate figure.

Nursing home administrators cautioned that families shouldn’t be alarmed if a rating drops overnight because the reality is, these new reporting measures actually mean care quality may have improved in a meaningful way.

Still, it will be helpful for families to weigh the areas where certain facilities still have yet to improve.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Government Nursing Home Ratings to Get Tougher, Feb. 13, 2015, By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

More Blog Entries:

Report: Palm Beach Explores Tighter In-Home Caregiver Rules, Feb. 12, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog


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