Hospital Compare Joins Nursing Home Compare As Consumer Tool

Caregiver, patient expert

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently developed a tool that compares hospitals in a way that is similar to their popular Nursing Home Compare. Aptly called Hospital Compare, the tool allows consumers to view hospital ratings that are based on data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS). HCAHPS measures patients’ perspectives of hospital care and has been in use since 2006.

The Hospital Compare star ratings grade patients’ experience of care at nearly 3,500 Medicare-certified acute care hospitals. Examples of ratings are how well nurses and doctors communicated with patients, how responsive hospital staff were to patient needs, how clean and quiet hospital environments were, and how well patients were prepared for post-hospital settings.

According to Dr. Patrick Conway, Acting Principal Deputy Administrator for CMS and Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality, "the patient experience star ratings will make it easier for consumers to use the information on the Hospital Compare website and spotlight excellence in health care quality. These star ratings also encourage hospitals and clinicians to continuously improve the patient experience and quality of care provided to their patients."

The success of Nursing Home Compare

One frequently asked question by caregivers is how to choose a nursing home for their loved one. Among the tools that I refer to is Nursing Home Compare. I feel that there is great value in these surveys and the findings compiled for the site. The same seems to be true for Hospital Compare. However, as with Nursing Home Compare, I feel that this tool should be used as just one element of a complete toolbox.

Not every part of the country has the same expectations or the same regulations for nursing homes and hospitals. A facility that would pass health inspections with five stars in one part of the country may receive only two stars in another because people expect different things from a facility and their state may also have lower regulations.

Doing our own research to expand our knowledge is essential in finding a quality nursing home. For me, much depends on the staff. The most beautiful facility isn’t always the best. The facility that is clean and well run but not fancy may have exceptional staff. That would, after taking in all considerations, likely be my pick.

I’d expect the same to be true of Hospital Compare. I’m happy to see that much of the survey focuses on the experiences of the patients. This is essential. In both types of care we naturally expect excellent hygiene and well inspected food services. We expect staff that we can trust and when possible we want those we love who are treated in a hospital to feel cared for.

Use these tools. They are excellent guides. But use your own sense of what you truly value, as well. Ask around for those who’ve used the services. If you are fortunate enough to have the time because you are not in emergency mode, as well as multiple options, take advantage of every type of research before making a choice.

Carol is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at www.mindingourelders.com_ On Twitter, f_ollow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook:_ _Minding Our Elders_

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