The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday announced a plan to begin displaying a warning icon for nursing homes with abuse citations on its flagship consumer-facing website.
Starting October 23, visitors to Nursing Home Compare will see a red circle with an open palm on the pages for facilities that have received inspection-report citations for abuse that led to the harm of a resident within the past year — or citations for abuse that could have potentially led to resident harm in each of the previous two years.
“With today’s action, the Trump administration is putting critical information at consumers’ fingertips, empowering them and incentivizing nursing homes to compete on cost and quality,” CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement announcing the initiative.
Officials will update the icons monthly along with facilities’ overall inspection results.
“This means consumers will not be forced to wait for CMS’s quarterly updates to see the latest-related information — and nursing homes will not be flagged for longer than necessary if their most recent inspections indicate they have remedied the issues that caused the citations for abuse or potential for abuse and no longer meet the criteria for the icon,” the agency noted in the statement.
The announcement marks the latest in a string of nursing home quality and safety improvement moves from CMS under President Trump and Verma, who instituted a five-point plan for oversight efforts this past summer.
In announcing the change, CMS acknowledged that information about past instances of abuse may not have been easy for potential residents and their families to access — and stated that positive metrics in other domains don’t necessarily correlate to a lack of abuse claims.
“For example, a nursing home cited for an incident of abuse may have adequate staffing numbers and provide excellent dementia or rehabilitative care,” CMS observed. “Previously, consumers would clearly see this facility’s performance in these areas through the Star Ratings, but abuse complaint allegation information may not have been as clear.”
The warning icon joins other recent improvements to Nursing Home Compare and the five-star rating system for the nation’s skilled nursing facilities. Earlier this year, CMS tightened the requirements for achieving a top staffing rating, while also breaking out its overall five-star quality ranking into separate metrics for short- and long-term care.
In a statement, American Health Care Association president and CEO Mark Parkinson applauded CMS’s move toward transparency, but reaffirmed calls for the agency to develop “a standard and rational definition of both abuse and neglect,” and then provide separate reports for each.
Parkinson also challenged CMS to develop a customer-satisfaction metric for Nursing Home Compare, calling it the best way for people to choose a nursing home.
“It’s surprising that we can look for customer reviews of restaurants and hotels that we select, but that information isn’t available for nursing homes,” Parkinson said. “We should have a way to let families and residents think of the facilities they are considering.”
CMS chief medical officer Kate Goodrich has agreed that such feedback would be useful for consumers, but cautioned that developing a formal mechanism for reporting user-submitted opinions could be difficult.
“It is actually a fairly complex process to undertake, because you of course are capturing the resident or the caregiver’s voice, and we want to be sure that we’re doing that in a way that is accurate and fair — and yet truthful, and gives the information people are looking for,” Goodrich said on a September episode of SNN’s podcast. “In order to do this, it would require us undertaking a very methodological and deliberate process that, frankly, would take some time.”