‘Best Nursing Homes’ report leaves something to be desired

Personally, I’m not a fan of “best of” lists. Of course, I’m not indicting all such reports, but I feel that some are loosely structured and based on limited data. If the extensive study and research isn’t present then that list can be as arbitrary as the weight I admit to on my driver’s license every four years. Don’t get me wrong…”best ofs” can be enlightening, entertaining, and educational. But they have to be done right.

Each year, U.S. News Media Group, publisher of the digital-only U.S. News & World Report, releases the national rankings of more than 15,500 nursing homes based on information gathered from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Nursing Home Compare, which compiles data provided by state surveys and the facilities themselves. With that information, CMS assigns a rating of one to five stars based on the Five-Star Quality Rating System. Eighteen “Honor Roll” facilities were highlighted for in the 2011 Best Nursing Homes rankings as have perfect 5-Star ratings for four consecutive quarters in all three categories by which nursing homes are judged:

· Health inspections

· Nurse staffing

· Quality of care

Issued as a consumer resource, the report makes it easy to locate skilled nursing facilities in a specific geographical area. On the U.S. News site, an article by Avery Comarow (“Behind the Rankings”), explains, however, that “you can’t assume that all homes that got five stars overall, or even those with three or four stars, are of the same quality.”

Any tools that help consumers make educated choices are helpful. However, reader responses to the “Best” rankings were mixed as indicated by the responses to Comarow’s piece. Opinions about the Best Nursing Homes list vary—from well-satisfied resident families to skeptical nursing home operators who dispute the findings by basing them on a loosely interpreted, controversial Five-Star program.

Is Five-Star an accurate expression of an organization’s successes or failures? Let me know what you think of these rankings.

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