Frequent sales raise a red flag

A new study has shown that nursing facilities that are bought and sold frequently by corporate owners tend to continue poor care.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School, the University of Michigan, the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University said facilities exhibited poor care for a year or more before a transaction — and then continued to perform badly. The academic researchers studied thousands of records from an 18-year period ending in 2010 to reach what they call pervasive conclusions.

The existence of pre-existing quality issues lead the researchers to believe that the transaction wasn't to blame for any drops in quality, but rather that corporate transactions can be an indicator of a low-quality facility.

The investigators recommend notices of nursing home sales be made publicly available, a practice that Massachusetts already mandates. 

Greater transparency via tools such as the federal Nursing Home Compare website can help consumers make better informed decisions, study authors said.