More public reporting, stable financing and work with quality experts have helped nursing homes improve their publicly reported quality-of-care scores, industry representatives said.
Outgoing HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced the results of a study that examined nursing homes' report cards over the past two years. As part of the government's Nursing Home Quality Initiative, the CMS has compiled information on eight quality measures at nursing homes for about two years and has reported those scores on the CMS' Web site. Since the start of the initiative, seven measures have been added. Nursing homes are required to submit the data in order to take part in Medicare and Medicaid.
Nationally, the results show that nursing homes have improved on all the measures except one: pressure ulcers.
"We're definitely on the right track," said Hal Daub, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association, an advocacy group for about 10,000 not-for-profit and for-profit nursing home providers.
Some nursing homes were selected to work more closely with quality-improvement organizations toward finding ways to improve their quality of care. The report shows that facilities working with the organizations made more progress than those that didn't. "The combination of public reporting of quality data and the offering of QIO assistance is very important," Daub said.
For example, the percentage of residents who were in physical restraints in nursing homes that weren't working closely with the organizations dropped to 7.7% from 9.8%. Restraint rates for those working with the organizations dropped to 6.4% from 9.6%. Overall, the percentage of residents in restraints dropped to 7.5% from 9.7%.
Daub said the public reporting and QIOs certainly helped improve the scores, but he also said financing has been more stable in recent years for long-term-care facilities. Daub was referring to increases in government reimbursements and some provider taxes that have increased nursing home funds for Medicaid residents.
Last week, Pennsylvania became the latest state to announce that the CMS was close to approving a nursing home provider tax plan. The plan could allow the facilities to access more than $1 billion in Medicaid money over four years through federal matching funds.
Larry Minnix, president of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, said the study shows care was improving, but he hopes to improve pressure-sore scores; the percentage of nursing home residents suffering from pressure sores increased to 8.7% from 8.5%.