CMS, it's time to listen up

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Let's say you are in the market for two very different things: an automobile and a skilled care facility for Mom.

Finding that new ride might be a lot more enjoyable. Before you have to even talk to a sales person, you can let your fingers do the walking and go online. There you'll find dozens of websites that can help you find that perfect fit.

For grins and giggles, let's pick just one: The Car Connection.

There you will find various reviews from across the web. Better still, you'll see that they examine six different areas when rating each vehicle: styling, performance, comfort and quality, safety, features, and fuel economy. The rating for each of these areas is based on the real-world experience of their experts, combined with the consensus of Web-based reviews. I'm not necessarily recommending that you use this website, but it is illustrative of the kind of assistance that's out there. By the way, there are many additional websites sites that offer different criteria and options. Just ask Google.

As for finding the most appropriate nursing home? Let's just say your options are a bit more limited. Well, there's the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Nursing Home Compare website, which will reveal how many “stars” specific facilities received on their last inspection.

Now what if that person you are trying to place needs rehab, or vent care, or is recovering from a stroke? Those stars might not do you much good. It's sort of like the old “Saturday Night Live” sketch about the Olympia Restaurant, where the menu is limited to cheeseburgers, potato chips and Pepsi.

That's why a new option created by University of California researchers looks especially promising. Their “Nursing Home Compare Plus” app offers enhancements that let patients and their families create their own composite scores — based on their own preferences and medical needs.

As recently reported, the full study appears in the April issue of Health Affairs.

In it, lead researcher Dana B. Mukamel notes that patients would likely benefit if current report cards were modified to include an option for personalized ranking.

Imagine that, tailored options. It's an approach that works for cars (and many other items that people buy).

Is there any reason to believe it would not work for nursing homes? Especially at a time when all sides agree that personalized and patient-centered care needs to improve? By developing the “Nursing Home Compare Plus” app, these researchers are telling the government how to improve facility selection.

So here's my simple question to CMS: Are you listening?


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.