The debut of the most recent new state dashboard shows the lengths states are going to in order to increase transparency into nursing home quality and operations.

New Jersey launched its consumer-oriented dashboard Nov. 9, touting its facility-level information as a resource for prospective residents and families. Despite the extra layer of scrutiny and opportunity for judgments based on outdated information, some observers say the additional information could actually help skilled nursing providers, researchers and government officials.

But providers must keep on top of the added data points to ensure they are ready to respond, warned Jessie McGill, RN, curriculum development specialist for the American Association of Post Acute Care Nursing told McKnight’s Long-Term Care on Monday.

For example, knowing a facility improved on a certain metric after a dashboard was last updated could help staff prepare for prospective client questions. McGill pointed to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Care Compare tool, which state dashboards typically mirror.

“So, right now the MDS 3.0 Quality Measures reports data from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022,” McGill explained. “This data would not reflect any improvement efforts the facility has made since July. Facility staff need to be aware of the data that is publicly reported on the Care Compare dashboard, as well as real-time data and be prepared to speak to consumers and possible referrals regarding both sets of data.”

The ideal dashboard would have real-time data, Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association/New York State Center for Assisted Living, told McKnight’s.

“They’re imperfect because the data is imperfect,” he said “If you’re trying to evaluate a nursing home you really need a real-time look. It’s helpful but it’s only a partial picture.”

Can’t get no satisfaction

One of the failings of such dashboards is that they show a lot of information that is easily gathered but not as valuable as other information that’s harder to count, geriatrician and chairman of the public policy at the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine Michael Wasserman told McKnight’s

“They miss a key element, which is customer satisfaction, resident satisfaction, family satisfaction,” Wasserman said. “It’s one of the challenges we face in the field, assessing things like quality of life. We don’t have any great measures, so they go through measures they can quantify. Are there pressure ulcers, things like that.

“Those metrics all have their limitations. Speaking as a clinician, as a geriatrician, I think our ultimate goal is trying to develop some metrics that are more person-centric.”

Ombudsmen value the same type of information, Chris Fisher, vice president of operations and quality Initiatives at the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, told McKnight’s.

Fisher said he’s not concerned about the redundancy that state dashboards create.

“Individual states can make the data more manageable by leveraging all that’s relative to that state in one location, such as a dashboard,” he said. “It’s possible competing data locations with the same information could create some confusion, but the intent is for increased transparency.”

He added that it is important for any group leveraging data about nursing homes “to maintain responsibility and integrity with it, whether they are sourcing the data or collecting it on their own.”

Helping investments

In New Jersey, the dashboard will empower Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) administration “to engage in increased monitoring of nursing homes for the maintenance of key quality of care standards and also streamlines access to help inform the public’s decisions when selecting a nursing home,” according to a release announcing the dashboard’s launch.

“The dashboard will also equip businesses and organizations with state and facility-level information that may aid investments, improvements, and advocacy decisions.”

For each of the state’s 356 nursing homes, New Jersey’s searchable dashboard includes information such as:

  • Facility Five-Star Quality Ratings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 
  • Survey and inspection information
  • Links to certified financial statements and cost reports
  • General staffing levels and compliance to staffing ratios
  • Names of owners and licensed nursing home administrators