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Web Site To See: Medicare's Nursing Home Compare

Written by on Wednesday, 08 January 2003 6:00 pm

Medicare's new online Nursing Home Compare search engine falls short of making the kind of comparisons you'll really need to make an informed decision, but experts say it is a good start.

What's probably more valuable than the nursing home comparison engine is the wealth of guidance the Medicare Web site feature offers to help you make a nursing home decision off line.

"This is a potentially valuable tool," says Faith Mullen, an analyst with AARP's Public Policy Institute.

"But the data available here are no substitute for visiting a facility in person and talking with the staff as well as families of residents," she added.

Nursing Home Compare provides quality indicator information on 17,000 nursing homes that are Medicare or Medicaid certified. The information is as detailed as revealing the percentage of long-term residents in physical restraints and the percentage unable to perform basic daily tasks. Other indictors show the percentage with bedsores, pain and infections.

For each nursing home, the service also includes the number of beds, type of ownership, summary information about the last state inspection and information about the number of registered nurses, licensed practical or vocational nurses, and nursing assistants.

AARP complained, however, that there are no comparative numbers for the level of staffing. The quality of care can suffer when there isn't sufficient staffing.

An AARP Bulletin reports that other critics say each nursing home is responsible for reporting its own quality indictors, but without sufficient staffing to identify certain problems, it cannot accurately report the full extent of a given problem.

What's more, AARP cites a General Accounting Office report that said 17 percent of nursing homes listed online had four or more positive indicators with no highly negative scores. That could mislead online visitors into believing they are good homes.

All the homes with high ratings had been cited by state authorities for practices that did physical harm to residents, according to the GAO report.

The Medicare online service's extensive nursing home information content helps fill the gap in its comparison shortcomings.

The content includes

  • Nursing Home Checklist -- The detailed five-page checklist, with dozens of items, is the same one Medicare used to rate the nursing homes. You can print the checklist and use it offline when visiting nursing homes -- something you should do before choosing one.

  • About Nursing Home Inspections -- This area explains in greater detail, Medicare's nursing home inspection process.

  • Alternatives to Nursing Home Care -- If you would prefer to live in your own home, but need nursing care, this area describes Medicare covered programs.

  • Paying for Care Here's general information about Medicare, Medicaid, and Long Term Care Insurance benefits for Nursing Home Care.

  • Nursing Home Resident Rights -- Nursing home residents have their own federally mandated Bill of Rights.

  • Nursing Home Awareness Campaigns -- Nursing home awareness and resident advocacy programs, including the Nutrition and Hydration Awareness Nutrition Care Alerts are discussed here.

  • Nursing Home Publications -- A good Web site lives up to its obligation to point you to additional information. This list links you to the Medicare's online publications page that contains nursing home related publications.

  • Nursing Home Related Sites: -- Another list of links offers additional nursing home related information on other Web sites.
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      About the author, Broderick Perkins

    Individual news stories are based upon the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Realty Times.