The Correct Way to Utilize ‘Nursing Home Compare’

When you are scouring the internet to find the perfect nursing home for your elderly family members, you often come across tips and factors for judging convalescent homes. But it is very rare that you find actual tools to quantitatively measure and compare them. One of these rare instances is Nursing Home Compare, which allows you to compare information of more than 15,000 nursing homes that are certified to be paid for with Medicare or Medicaid. You should make use of the tools listed below provided by Nursing Home Compare to pick the best nursing facility for your aging parents or other family members.

The Five Star Quality Rating System

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has created the Five Star Quality Rating System for the facilitation of the consumers and caregivers alike, so that they can focus and identify their priority areas.

Senior facilities are given an overall rating between 1 and 5 stars, as well as three separate ratings for the following:

Nursing Home Inspections

Comprising of complaint and standard surveys, the information from these onsite inspections is collected by trained inspectors who follow a standard procedure for determining the extent to which the healthcare facility meets the minimum quality requirements set by Medicare and Medicaid. The data from previous three years is used for evaluation, with more weightage on the most recent survey than the last two years.

Quality Measures’ Scores

It is based on eleven different measures for assessing the quality of care and services provided to the consumers. The QM scores are an indicator of how well the institute is caring for the clinical and physical needs of its residents. The conditions of more than 12 million residents are assessed to evaluate these QMs.

New Quality Measures for Long Stay and Short Stay Residents – The rating now contains information regarding the use of antipsychotic medications by the nursing facilities.  

Staffing

It deals with the average number of hours of care provided by the nursing staff to each resident. But this rating differs with the level of care required by the residents.

Penalties

The two most commonly occurring penalties are listed by the Nursing Home Compare:

  • Payment denials – payment of Medicare/Medicaid for new residents is ceased for the nursing facility
  • Fines – imposed per day or once per deficiency

This website lists the penalties that have been imposed on the senior homecare facilities in the past three years. If the deficiencies are not corrected, then the agreement of the said nursing facility with Medicare/Medicaid is terminated and the existing residents with Medicare or Medicaid are shifted to other certified facilities. If you do not want your family member to go through the trouble of shifting and adjusting in a new place, choose a nursing home that does not have any major outstanding penalties.

Your Rights as a Convalescent Home Resident

Make sure that you know your rights provided to you by law as a nursing home resident. Generally, your chosen skilled nursing facility will provide you with a copy of these rights. Don’t hesitate to file a complaint if any of your rights are violated. If you wish to learn more about the rights of a nursing home resident click here.

E-Prescribing Exceptions and Opposition

The E-Prescribing bill is not without its opponents however and there are exceptions, which are as follows:

  • Prescriptions issued where electronic prescribing is not available due to temporary technological or electrical failure
  • Prescriptions issued by a practitioner where the practitioner reasonably determines that it would be impractical for the patient to obtain substances prescribed by electronic prescription in a timely manner, and such delay would adversely impact the patient’s medical condition.
  • Prescriptions issued by a practitioner to be dispensed by a pharmacy located outside the state.
  • Practitioners who have received a waiver or a renewal thereof for a specified period determined by the commissioner, from the requirement to use electronic prescribing.

There is a lot of additonal information on this policy and we suggest that physicians get a complete background of the E-Prescribing Exceptions.

As far as the discrepancies are concerned, this CBS News Podcast brings to our attention that this policy needs some additional review.

Why Has the Measles Virus Returned?

The measles virus was declared ‘eliminated’ in the in year 2000 in the United States. With that said, it has now re-appeared in California, specifically Disneyland, where 78 cases have been detected so far.

Why is measles coming back? Let’s look at a little history. Most baby boomers born in the US will most likely not be infected by the disease. This is because people who were born before 1957 were most likely exposed and therefore will not contact the disease. The CDC  has said there’s a 95% to 98% chance that those born before 1957 are immune to measles. So, seniors need not be concerned.
However, children who have not been vaccinated are vulnerable. In the US, parents must show proof that their children were vaccinated before entering the public school system, but recently, people who have religious beliefs that don’t allow their children to get vaccinated, as well as those who have come here from other stand a much higher chance of coming down with the disease.
This also appears to be indicative of the growing sentiment against vaccines, however frivolous they these concerns may be.

Per a New York Times report, “parents at the heart of America’s anti-vaccine movement are being blamed for incubating an otherwise preventable public-health crisis,”. The anti-vax movement has been gaining steam, “Anti-vaxxers have been relentless in the efforts to spread misinformation. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are beneficial, they endlessly repeat a variety false claims,” stated forbes.In California,  anti-vaccine parents “largely defended their choice to raise their children on natural foods, essential oils and no vaccinations.”In response to the controversy surrounding the Disneyland measles outbreak, White House spokesman Josh Earnest “said Friday that decisions about vaccinations should be left to parents, but the science on vaccinations ‘is really clear,’” The Hill reports that “Earnest said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was closely monitoring the situation, and suggested those showing symptoms should avoid public spaces.”President Obama recently quoting ‘indisputable’ science to ‘Get your kids vaccinated’.  A logical statement, since many thousands of children and adults stand to become infected from this contagious disease.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

During thyroid awareness month this January, experts remind the public to perform regular thyroid neck self-exams. Thyroid disease affects approximately 200 million people worldwide.

If thyroid disease is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause depression, tremors, muscle weakness, and constant fatigue.

“When not working properly [the thyroid] can cause the body’s system to speed up (hyperthyroidism) or slow down (hypothyroidism),” Marita Teng, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Head and Neck Institute at Mount Sinai, said in a statement. “Furthermore, although the vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign, some can be cancerous and require examination and workup.”

Affecting as many as 30 million Americans, thyroid disease is actually more common than diabetes and heart disease. Aging is one factor for hypothyroidism, and women are 5 times more likely than men to suffer from it.

Hypothyroidism is when the gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone, and hyperthyroidism is when the gland produces too much. The former causes the body’s systems to slow down, and the latter causes everything to speed up.

People who should consider getting their thyroid checked include people who:

  • Have a parent, sibling or child with thyroid disease;
  • Are taking the medications Lithium and Amiodarone;
  • Have had radiation therapy for the tonsils, an enlarged thymus, or acne; and
  • Lived near Chernobyl at the time of the 1986 nuclear accident.

A self-exam is fairly simply to perform. The thyroid gland is in the lower front area of the neck, above the collarbones and below the voice box. Looking in a mirror, tip your head back and take a drink of water. As you swallow, look for bulges or protrusions. An enlarged thyroid gland or nodule should be checked for the presence of cancer and a physician should determine if treatment for thyroid disease is needed.

Kidney Disease on the Rise, But c

The mortality rate for kidney disease is on the decline, according to a study from the United States Renal Data System (USRD). However, patients on dialysis or who have undergone kidney transplantation are living longer, chronic kidney disease is a growing public health issue in the US.

According to data from 2012, there were 639,905 people being treated for end-stage renal disease, including the 114,813 new patients diagnosed in 2012. However, the growth rate for new cases of potentially fatal kidney failure was on the decline from 2010 to 2012.

“It is too soon to declare victory on the war against the rising tide of kidney failure, but our analysis provides some good news about kidney disease in the US,” kidney specialist Rajiv Saran, MD, director of the USRDS coordinating center at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “We will follow these trends closely to see whether they are sustained over the coming years, study what factors may be responsible for bringing about this positive change, and explore how it may be even further accelerated.”

Meanwhile 14% of adults have chronic kidney disease, which is often caused by diabetes and high blood pressure. Other risk factors include those with a family history of kidney disease, acute kidney injury, or obesity, as well as people age 50 years and older and minorities.

“A comprehensive approach to improving kidney health should include prevention and awareness of chronic kidney disease,” Saran said. “Warning signs are minimal or non-existent, but simple tests can help with early diagnosis.”