CMS promises more accurate Hospice Compare site
The CMS will not take down a site aimed at helping terminally ill Medicare beneficiaries and their families find hospices after it was criticized for being riddled with wrong information.
"Given the value that the website provides to numerous stakeholders, the CMS is committed to addressing the inaccuracies as quickly and efficiently as possible while maintaining this important source of information to the public," said Dr. Kate Goodrich, CMS chief medical officer and director Centers for Clinical Standards and Quality in an interview with Modern Healthcare.
Hospice Compare lists quality metrics, such as the percentage of patients who were screened for pain or whether patients' preferences are being met. About 3,800 hospices record their data on the site which debuted in August.
However, almost immediately providers noticed that it had incorrect addresses, according to Carol Spence, vice president of research and quality for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Phone numbers and profit status have also been flagged as wrong by industry. Providers believed this could prevent patients and families from finding care.
"Incorrect or misleading healthcare information is always troubling, especially for hospice patients and families facing such an emotional, life-changing decision," said Perry Farmer, president and CEO of Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, a hospice company headquartered in Tulsa, OK.
Last week, the CMS placed a banner on the site informing users that when searching by location, the list of agencies provided may not serve the ZIP code, city or state they entered. The message also recommends that consumers call hospice providers to confirm their service areas.
Now, in a wide-ranging conversation with Modern Healthcare, Goodrich said these inaccuracies are far and in between. Only 178 hospices have called to address inaccuracies. Further, no consumers have flagged wrong information on the site.
But even a small amount of wrong information is unacceptable and the CMS is taking a multi-prong approach to fix the problems, Goodrich said.
There was hope that a quarterly update of information would remove the wrong information on the site. However, the CMS said late last month that a refresh scheduled for Nov. 21 would be delayed.
A CMS official said the agency needed more time to allow hospices to check the information. It now plans to do the refresh before month's end.
The agency is also changing the way data on the site is populated. Since April, hospices have submitted data on service areas and that information will be shared on the site in early 2018. Currently, claims data informs services areas and that may not fully convey where hospices are, the CMS official said.
"The problem is not with the website itself, but the underlying data source," Goodrich said.
Hospices say they're confident the update will lead to better patient choices.
"As the CMS continues to refine how it reports on quality for this important benefit, we believe patients and their families will be better informed and educated on care available at end-of-life," said Susan Sender, chief clinical officer at Amedisys, a Baton Rouge, La.-based hospice chain.
Some had requested the Hospice Compare site, which was created under the Affordable Care Act, to be taken down until the data issues are addressed, but the agency feels that's unnecessary.
"Hospice Compare is much more accurate than it is inaccurate. This is a service that beneficiaries and consumers have requested for a long time, and many beneficiaries and consumers find the site useful," Goodrich said.
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