The majority of the nation's aging homeowners wish to remain in their homes when they retire and they recently received a tool to help them make it so.
Home Health Compare is the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) online search engine that uses Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandated data to ferret out the best home health care services that participate in the federal Medicare program nationwide.
HIPAA is a variety of health care reform policies carried about by CMS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Medicare is federal health care coverage for those who are 65 or older or disabled. Home health care providers offer health services for those who have conditions that don't force them to leave home for care.
"Not only will consumers be better informed, but home health agencies themselves will be able to see more clearly what they must do to improve their care. Publishing this kind of quality information creates real incentives for health care providers to further improve the quality of care that they provide to their patients," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
Home health service providers offer a variety of services, including physical or occupational therapy, speech therapy, part-time skilled nursing care and homemaker or choreworkers services. Anyone, Medicare patients and those who are not yet using Medicare, can tap the online system. For those who don't use Medicare, they should check to make sure their health insurance company pays claims from a given company.
To rate home health service providers, Home Health Compare uses the Outcomes and Assessment Information Set (OASIS) measures home health care providers have gathered since 1999. OASIS is collected by home health provider staff at the start of care, discharge or transfer, at follow up (60 day recertification) and at any resumption of care.
The data tracked for each company, over time, yield a success rate listed as a percentage (the higher the percentage the better) in 11 quality measures related to:
The national launch of Home Health Compare follows a first phase of the initiative, which earlier this year involved home health agencies in eight states -- Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
"The initial phase showed that these measures are not only good for consumers, but also good for home health agencies," secretary Thompson said. "More than half of the home health agencies in the eight states requested assistance to help them improve their care. That is exactly the type of collaborative effort we expected to see after our experience with nursing homes last year."
Last year, HHS's Medicare rolled out its online "Nursing Home Compare" service.
Medicare also offers online "Medicare Health Plan Compare," "Medicare Personal Plan Finder," "Dialysis Facility Compare," and it's newest related service "Prescription Drug Assistance Program Compare."