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7/30/2012
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Feds Make Hospital, Nursing Home Comparisons Easier

New online features from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services give patients and their families easy access to vital performance and safety information for hospitals and nursing homes.

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Researching the quality of hospitals and nursing homes is now easier for consumers, thanks to enhanced IT tools and mobile-ready applications.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) redesigned its Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare websites, allowing patients and their families to navigate more efficiently and find important information such as data from nursing home inspections and other quality measures.

At a July 19 press conference, Shari M. Ling, MD, CMS's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said, "Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare allow Americans to make side-by-side comparisons of the nursing homes and hospitals in their area on a diverse range of metrics. These can range from specific medical standards, such as how many people are taking the appropriate medications following a surgical procedure, to the levels of patient satisfaction with a facility."

She added that the two sites are popular with consumers. Hospital Compare attracted more than 1.2 million visitors and Nursing Home Compare more than 500,000 visits in the first half of 2012.

"The refinements improve the experience of navigation for the general public and also provide additional data that gives Americans more relevant information when using these compare tools," Ling said, adding: "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we have included new information on the ownership of nursing homes and have updated the data for the quality measures previously available on the site.

[ There's almost no end to the amount of useful medical information available online. For seven valuable resources, see 7 Health Education Tools For Patients]

According to Ling, Nursing Home Compare added a variety of new measures, including specific findings from nursing home inspections. The site includes a new measure that reports data on a nursing home's use of anti-psychotic medications. It also provides information on the percentage of residents who report experiencing moderate to severe pain while staying in the nursing home.

Hospital Compare added two new measures that cover potential health risks of imaging services such as exposure to unnecessary radiation. The site also gives end users access to information on the frequency of infections that develop in a hospital, and how often patients have to be readmitted to the hospital.

On both websites, navigation has been improved. Consumers will find large, easy-to-use maps for pinpointing hospitals, and new search functionalities allow users to input the name of a hospital, Ling said. Glossaries and web resources have also been added to make the information easier to understand.

Ling pointed out that these sites are not just for Medicare beneficiaries; anyone who is looking to compare hospitals or nursing homes can take advantage of them. "Both of these 'Compare' sites are an important part of CMS's effort to drive health care quality improvement across all dimensions of the Secretary's national quality strategy," Ling said.

She added that the measures on these sites are part of robust reporting programs that have been shown to help hospitals and nursing homes collect the data they need to pinpoint possible breakdowns in care as well as areas for improvement.

"We add accountability for improvement by making those measures public on Medicare's website for millions to see," Ling said, adding that users will now be able to access data on both sites using mobile-ready applications via data.medicare.gov.

In this InformationWeek Healthcare virtual event, EHRs: Beyond The Basics, experts will discuss how to improve electronic health record systems. It happens July 31.

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