The Chambersburg Public Opinion is reporting today about how to locate deficiencies in nursing homes in Central Pennsylvania. You can also locate and compare nursing homes throughout the United States. The nursing home industry is seeking legislation to cap punitive damages if it is reckless and responsible for treatments and care to a resident. Do you believe that this legislation promotes patient safety?
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited 20 deficiencies in local nursing homes, though none of them were what government inspectors considered to be serious.
The Public Opinion's parent company, Digital First Media, has partnered with ProPublica – a Pulitzer Prize-winning independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public's interest – in a project that allows the public to search nursing-home deficiencies and compare them to other homes.
ProPublica is launching Nursing Home Inspect, which can be found online at http://projects.propublica.org/nursing-homes. The program includes nearly 118,000 deficiencies cited against 14,565 homes across the country since January 2011, and more will be added each month as new reports become available.
Nursing Home Inspect was created so that users can search any keyword, which is a feature not available on the federal government's official nursing-home website, http://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare.
Users will see a box where they can type in their keyword search. The keyword "elope," for example, will search for citations of elopement, which is the industry term for a resident wandering away from the facility unsupervised. A search of that term and its variations returned 949 inspection reports.
Another search for the term "injuries" yielded 7,912 results from across the country, and "ignore" was found 275 times. Not all matches indicate a problem, however, but show that the word was found in a report.
Along with keywords, users can also refine their search by state and by the severity of the citation. Deficiency severity is rated on a scale from A to L, with L being the most-serious case. The letters A through F are the least severe, and all deficiencies in Franklin County fell into this category.
Advocates say a tool like ProPublica's latest app provide a great opportunity for people to search nursing homes and compare their violations more easily. But those in the industry say what the app does not show is all the good work homes do, or how they corrected their violations.
"There is no substitute for going into a facility, and speaking with the staff, and making observations on your own," said Stephen McShane, a consultant working at Golden Living Center in Gettysburg.
He said when families are choosing a nursing home, he hopes they do not use this app or the federal government's database – Nursing Home Compare – as their sole resource. He recommends actually visiting the facility, and asking about their outcome data.
"My problem is that people can make assumptions or interpretations by the information on the facility based on false impressions," McShane said. "It's not an accurate measuring stick."
Every nursing facility is surveyed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health at least once per year, McShane said. Many of these deficiencies reported are not uncommon, he said, and homes are required to correct them, and post those corrective actions along with the violations at the nursing home.
USING NURSING HOME INSPECT
To use ProPublica's latest app, Nursing Home Inspect, visit their database here. You can search for keywords, like "pressure sore," or "conviction." Every time these words are used in an inspector's report, it will show up. You can refine your search by state and by severity.
You can also type in the name of your city, and view the reports of area nursing homes since January 2011.