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New Guidelines Cause Nursing Home Quality Score Drop

The new guidelines for Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website could impact the quality scores of more than 15,000 American nursing homes. It was just confirmed that about a third of these nursing homes are getting lower scores because of the strengthened guidelines.

Nursing Home Compare is a widely-used website run by the government, which scores nursing homes based on a five-star system. This site is used by millions of Americans in deciding which facility is best suited for their loved one. Unfortunately, the site has also come under intense criticism for its ratings system and its many flaws.

In response to criticism, Medicare has taken quite a few steps forward in revising the rating system. One of the most meaningful improvements was the inclusion of anti-psychotic drug use in nursing homes. Anti-psychotics, like Seroquel or Zyprexa, are frequently used in nursing homes – illegally – to subdue unruly or difficult residents. This is extraordinarily dangerous, as the FDA has repeatedly warned that anti-psychotic drugs can cause premature death in elderly people with dementia.

In addition to this new drug data, Medicare will also use more complex metrics to make sure the staffing levels are correct. Most of the information on Nursing Home Compare is self-submitted by nursing homes, including staff levels and quality measure.

Obviously, there is much concern regarding the validity of this self-reported data. There is really nothing stopping nursing homes from over-reporting how well they staff their facilities and generally overstating how well the facilities are run. The only data that is actually submitted by Medicare itself is information on the government inspections.

As stated, the new Nursing Home Compare rating system uses more refined metrics to confirm staffing levels. After these new metrics were put in place, more than 60% of nursing homes on the site got lower quality of care scores. Nearly 30% dropped one star overall, and about 3% of nursing homes dropped two stars.

This is the first time the five-star system has at all changed since 2008. Only about 340 nursing homes (out of 15,000) saw their overall ratings improve in response to the new metrics.

It is important to highlight that thousands of nursing homes hot the lowest possible score possible on anti-psychotic drug use. Alarmingly, 20% of the 15,000 nursing homes received just one star in the anti-psychotic drug use category for giving these medications to residents who do not have psychiatric conditions.

A high rate of anti-psychotic drug use is a major indicator that abuse or neglect is happening in a nursing home. Drugs are used to control residents only when staff is so overworked and overstressed that they have neither the time nor resources to properly care for the residents. Improper medications can lead to increases in falls, bedsores, malnutrition, and overall decreased quality of life.

If you suspect a loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home, contact our firm immediately.Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys can help review your case and inform you of your legal rights. We aggressively fight on behalf of our clients. Schedule a free consultation today.