HCFA has begun posting nursing homes' quality survey reports on its Medicare World Wide Web site, drawing support from long-term-care groups but also concern that the agency may not present the information fairly.
Called "Nursing Home Compare," the HCFA site allows consumers to get information about a nursing home by entering the facility's name, or to search all nursing homes in a geographic area, to read about any violations cited by state nursing-home certification agencies.
The database, first posted on HCFA's www.medicare.gov site in late September, identifies the scope and severity of a nursing home's deficiencies, as nursing-home inspectors are required to do under federal quality regulations that took effect in 1995.
The listing also compares the number of violations in each nursing home with the average number of violations per nursing home in the state. The data on the site are public information, often posted on bulletin boards and elsewhere in nursing homes.
The Internet listing is part of a quality initiative announced in July by President Clinton (July 27, p. 12).
It is not in its final form, however. A HCFA spokesman said the agency is testing the site and soliciting comments on how to better present the information.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who has criticized the Clinton administration's nursing home oversight in the past, praised the effort. "Americans are good consumers," Grassley said. "We like to educate ourselves about what we buy. Nursing homes that care for our family members are no exception."
Nursing home groups said they generally support the idea but there must be a way to quickly correct outdated or erroneous information.
They also said the site fails to account for exemptions to safety codes that are granted to older nursing homes.
"Let's get it done, but let's get it done correctly," said Michael Rodgers, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a Washington-based not-for-profit nursing-home group.