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Which Nursing Home Rating System Should You Trust?

On Behalf of | Aug 13, 2020 | Elder Law

Choosing a nursing home for a loved one is a difficult decision and it can only be made more confusing by the various rating systems. A recent study found that using both Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare site and user reviews can help with the decision making.

The official Medicare website includes a nursing home rating system. Nursing Home Compare offers up to five-star ratings of nursing homes based on health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. However, Medicare’s rating system is far from perfect. The staff level and quality statistics ratings are based largely on self-reported data that the government does not verify. The ratings also do not take into account state fines and enforcement data or consumer complaints to state agencies.  Nursing homes have learned how to game the system to improve their ratings.

While Nursing Home Compare doesn’t include consumer feedback, Yelp and other online platforms like FacebookGoogle, and allow users to review individual nursing homes. These user reviews are highly subjective, and it can be difficult to judge their legitimacy. These reviews are not usually taken seriously–for example, consumer guides to finding a nursing home do not usually suggest that consumers consult online reviews.

In order to better understand what consumers were saying about nursing homes online, researchers at the University of Southern California evaluated 264 Yelp reviews and grouped them into categories. The researchers found that consumers rate different aspects of nursing home care than does the official rating system. User reviews were more emotional and more likely to focus on staff attitudes and responsiveness rather than on the quality of health care.

The researchers concluded that user reviews can be used in conjunction with the Nursing Home Compare site to paint a fuller picture of life at the nursing home because they present complementary information. According to the study, online reviews shouldn’t be dismissed because they “directly capture the voices of residents and family members, precisely the kind of information [nursing homes] and their consumers need to hear and may want to act on, if resident-directed care is to be achieved.”

Yelp has gone a step further than other consumer review sites and has teamed up with the investigative news organization, ProPublica, to provide users with additional information. ProPublica’s Nursing Home Inspect site, allows users to compare nursing homes based on federal data. Yelp users viewing a nursing home review page see a ProPublica box that provides information on the nursing home’s deficiencies and fines.

To read an article about the study, click here.

The Indiana State Department of Health offers a Consumer Report website that gives information on Indiana assisted living facilities and nursing homes.  The link shows information regarding the facility statistics, any complaints against the facility and how such facility responded to the complaint.  To look at the Consumer Reports for Indiana Assisted Living and Nursing Home facilities you can click here:

The attorneys at Severns & Howard, P.C. are familiar with many of the nursing home facilities in the central Indiana area and throughout Indiana.  We welcome questions regarding our knowledge of each facility and the feedback we have received from current residents of a facility.  We are also able to connect you with non-legal professionals who work closely with many of the facilities. Our attorneys specialize and are knowledgeable in both VA Aid and Attendance and Medicaid to help with answering questions on how to pay for such long term care needs.  We review financial assets, healthcare needs, and discuss with you how you or your loved one can meet the eligibility requirements for one of these needs based programs.  To schedule an appointment with a Severns & Howard attorney to begin these important discussions, please contact our office to schedule a free 30-minute intake call with our intake paralegal Alesha Dugger at (317) 817-0300.