Image of nurses' hands at computer keyboard

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ recently launched Hospice Compare website may be giving users incorrect location information for hospice providers, the agency said on Tuesday.

The website, which went online in August, quickly earned skepticism from experts for the high ratings providers were showing. Those high scores cast doubt on whether the website could be a trustworthy tool for consumers, some observers said.

Now, according to a CMS memo, searching for a provider by location may turn up a list of agencies that don’t serve the ZIP code, city or state entered by a user. CMS said it is working on updating the website with a fix, and recommended that consumers call hospice providers to confirm service areas in the meantime.

“We understand the distress that patients and caregivers that are seeking hospice care may be experiencing when searching for such services,” a CMS spokesman told Modern Healthcare. “So that we may best serve our beneficiaries, providing the most effective and expedient solution to these issues is our highest priority.”

The issue has persisted for months, Carol Spence, vice president of research and quality for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, told Modern Healthcare. Spence said her group has been working with the agency to solve the issue.

“If you are a family in crisis, you’re already under so much stress as it is,” Spence said. “Then you call a hospice, and the first thing you hear is that ‘We can’t help you because you’re not in an area we serve.’”

CMS did not indicate if they were checking to see if other sites, such as Nursing Home Compare, had similar issues.