New website will rate Kansas nursing homes

02/20/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:22 AM

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services will unveil a new rating website in April for the state’s roughly 340 nursing homes.

“Our primary objective is to increase consumer awareness and education and give them as much power in the decision-making process as possible so they can choose a nursing facility for themselves or a loved one,” said Joe Ewert, commissioner of survey, certification and credentialing for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

The site will be similar to Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare site, but instead of a five-star ratings system, nursing homes will earn sunflowers.

“It makes it a little more Kansas-centric,” Ewert said.

It will also not provide an overall rating for each facility as the Medicare site does. Rather ratings will be only in individual categories.

About 18,000 Kansans live in nursing homes. The Kansas Nursing Home Report Card will be available on the aging agency’s website, but the exact Web address has not been released.

The state hopes nursing home administrators will use the information to correct problems, Ewert says, and improve quality by increasing competition.

The report card will be based on state health and safety inspections, staffing ratios, quality indicators and residents’ satisfaction surveys.

Quality indicators include things like how well the nursing home prevents and treats pressure ulcers, weight loss among residents, urinary tract infections and the use of catheters.

As part of the data-gathering the state has hired the National Research Corporation, which operates MyInner View, for third-party interviews with nursing home residents.

Including the interview survey results is a unique component, Ewert said, and more than 7,000 residents were interviewed.

The two-year contract with the National Research Corporation is for $295,000, Ewert said, and interviews will be conducted each year.

Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Lawrence-based Kansas Advocates for Better Care, a nursing home watchdog group since 1975, says she’s excited about the new site.

But she has heard concerns that the company, MyInner View, will provide more marketing information than actual evaluations or input on resident satisfaction.

“I’m hopeful about seeing that they will include the actual comments, which are more illustrative for people looking for information and a better sense of what it’s really like to live in a particular facility,” instead of just aggregating the information obtained by the interviews into the overall rating system, she said.

Ewert, however, said the site will assess how residents’ answers aligned and post aggregated information.

“We want to provide as much detail as we can without alluding to identities,” Ewert said.

Reginald Hislop, CEO of Larksfield Place, 2828 N. Governeour, said it will be interesting to see what the new site looks like.

“I don’t have high hopes for the Kansas site because, in government, it usually takes a few kicks at the cat to get it all right, but in this case it might,” Hislop said. “We think that information that can be available to consumers in ways that makes sense and is clear to understand and accessible is a good thing.”

Hislop said the information will become more accurate as more of it is collected over time.

“The difficulty with satisfaction surveys are they’re not always consistently conducted and they end up being more misleading, both positively and negatively, than what’s true. You’re always going to have outliers.”

Cindy Luxem, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Care Association, which represents about 150 nursing homes statewide, says the association supports the idea of the new site.

“All but 30 nursing homes in Kansas will participate” in the resident satisfaction survey portion, Luxem said.

“It’s good for consumers and family members to understand what’s happening there.”

For now, the new site will only include long-term-care nursing homes, not assisted living, Home Plus or other residential models, Ewert said. The state wants to evaluate the effectiveness of the new site before adding data.

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