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Web Site Details Nursing Home Information

Nov 13, 2002 | Daily Press

As administrator of the Riverside Regional Convalescent Center in Newport News, Lynda Burton regularly meets with families as they try to choose a nursing home for a loved one.

They're confused and often feeling guilty. Some have never been in a nursing home before. A lot of them cry as they walk down the hallways.

"It certainly is an emotional time," Burton said. "The more work you can do in advance to determine the type of home you're looking for, the better."

Enter a new Web site, one that will offer Virginia residents detailed information on individual nursing homes. The site is part of an initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve nursing home care across the country.

The data includes problems found at each home during recent state inspections, patient-staff ratios and details such as the percentage of residents who experience pain or bedsores. Information is drawn from inspection reports and regular surveys of nursing home residents.

"It is data that has been collected for many years," said Joy Hogan Rozman, chief executive officer of the Virginia Health Quality Center, or VHQC, a Richmond-based group that works to improve the quality of nursing homes in the state. "However, the decision to make it available to the public is groundbreaking for both the nursing home industry and consumers."

Close to 28,000 people in Virginia live in the state's 282 Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes. While many homes provide good care, horror stories about abuse and neglect including bedsores, soiled sheets, overworked staff and ignored patients terrify families.

The Web site covers the number of residents with infections, pain or bedsores, how many are in physical restraints and what percentage lose some ability to do basic daily tasks while in the home. The site, to be updated quarterly, then compares that data to state and national percentages.

Locally, many nursing homes did well in some areas and worse in others. One local home had 22 percent of patients with bedsores compared to the state's 10 percent average, but the home reported no patients in physical restraints compared to 7 percent of patients statewide.

The VHQC and nursing home administrators caution that because some homes specialize in certain types of patients or care, they may naturally have more people with problems than others.

That's why the Web site should be just one resource for families, Rozman said.

"They also should make a point of visiting the nursing home and asking questions," she said.

Virginia's nursing homes welcome the program, said Stephen C. Morrisette, president of the Virginia Health Care Association. The VHCA represents 90 percent of the nursing home providers in the state.

"We've not had access to national data like this before," he said. "We're looking forward to see how we compare. We think we're going to compare favorably."

The data is part of a federal nursing home quality improvement initiative launched in April as a pilot program in six states. It now covers all states. The effort also will give families good questions to ask when looking at homes, such as whether residents have the same caregivers on a daily basis and how quickly staff responds to calls for help.

Morrisette said nursing home providers want consumers to have more information.

"The better the data is," he said, "the better the nursing homes will be able to use that data to improve quality."


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