New Federal Nursing Home Rating Site Seeks To Make Safety Comparisons Easier

Federal health officials have launched a new website that provides additional information about overall nursing home safety ratings, which now includes vaccination rates among residents and staff, as part of a continuing effort to allow families and employees to make better more informed decisions when selecting a facility to work at or reside in.

The newly designed CMS Compare Care website for Medicare-eligible facilities was launched on September 22, following mounting public pressure from lawmakers who called on nursing homes to make COVID-19 vaccination rates more accessible to the public.

With more than 1.3 million residents in over 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes throughout the United States, significant attention has been placed on COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, which have typically hit facilities with a history of neglect and staffing problems the hardest.

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Previously, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Nursing Home Compare website provided nursing home and long term care facilities a rating of one star (much below average) to five stars (much above average) based on several factors, including health inspections, staffing levels, quality measures, and an overall rating.

However, the CMS ratings site has been subject to a great deal of criticism over the last several years, claiming the information is inaccurate because it is based on infrequent  on-site inspections, and because the ratings relied heavily on self-reported data from the nursing homes themselves.

Previous reports have indicated the ratings system has basically become a way for facilities to market themselves, while hiding deep and systemic problems with nursing home neglect, nursing home abusemedication errors and violence against the elderly.

With approximately more than 300,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded throughout U.S. nursing homes, resulting in at least 150,000 deaths, U.S. Senate Aging Committee Chair Bob Casey (D-PA), among other lawmakers, called on CMS to make its COVID-19 vaccination data of residents and staff workers more readily available to the public, who are often making difficult decisions on which facility they can trust to care for their loved ones.

As a result of the mounting pressure, CMS released new updates to the Compare Care website, which now provides percentages of staff and residents which have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, and compares those percentages to the state and nationwide averages. The user-friendly interface of the website also allows users to select multiple nursing homes in a desired area, and compare them side-by-side.

According to the CMS press release, the reported data will be updated on a bi-weekly basis to remain accurate and relevant to both residents searching for a suitable and safe nursing home, as well as for employees to better understand the safety of their work environment.

Pressure from Lawmakers

The updates to the CMS website follow an announcement by President Joe Biden on August 25, which indicated all nursing home facilities partaking in the Medicare and Medicaid government healthcare programs must require employees receive one of the mRNA vaccines to remain eligible.

The announcement was made following the release of a new COVID-19 vaccine efficacy study published by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the August edition of it’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which found early observational studies among nursing homes showed mRNA vaccines to be 53% to 92% effective against SARS-CoV-2.

According to the CDC’s report, researchers compared weekly data from 3,862 nursing homes and long-term care facilities from March 2021 through May 2021, finding two-dose vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE.N), and Moderna (MRNA.O) were 74.7% effective against infection among nursing home residents early in the vaccination program.

Additional efforts to protect nursing home residents and staff from infectious disease have included actions by Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who introduced Senate bill S.2674 on August 10, which will require nursing home facilities to maintain a documented infection control policy and keep an infection prevention and control specialist on staff. Facilities would also be required to keep a registered nurse available 24 hour a day, increasing the current requirement from eight hours per day.

Prior research has shown nursing home residents are more likely to receive poor care when facilities are understaffed, leaving them prone to suffering from bed sores, falls, fractures and other forms of nursing home injuries when staff at a facility are stretched thin.


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