Minnesota’s New Assisted Living Report Card Helps Families Find the Right Care

Those searching for assisted living in Minnesota now have a new tool. In late January, the state’s new Assisted Living Report Card went live. Modeled on Minnesota’s Nursing Home Report Card, the Assisted Living Report Card provides key details about assisted living facilities to help consumers make well-informed choices. With more than 2,200 facilities located within the state, the report card website can help consumers navigate the search process, and it can also help quality assisted living facilities stand out.

The Development of the Assisted Living Report Card

Natasha Merz

Natasha Merz, Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Aging and Disabilities Services Administration

Minnesota Aging and Disabilities Services Administration Assistant Commissioner Natasha Merz explains that Governor Waltz and the Minnesota Legislature authorized the report card’s creation four years ago as part of a larger assisted living regulation package. “Several incidents involving neglect or abuse at assisted living facilities in Minnesota led to the passage of legislation to license assisted living residences and enhance consumer protections,” she explains. “The directive to build a report card system was built into that legislation.”

Dr. Tetyana Shippee, professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, led the report card quality measures research and development process. She explains that the report card currently uses data from 2022-2023 surveys of assisted living residents and their family members. Those surveys were administered to residents and family members from facilities with a capacity to serve 20 or more residents. “Results from these surveys include a score for each domain and a facility average score,” she says. “There are nine domains for the Resident Quality of Life survey and eight for the Family Satisfaction survey. Domains capture questions around staff, food, engagement and other important factors associated with quality in the facility.”

Dr. Shippee notes that the scores for domains are listed as an average of all reportable scores for each individual domain. That information comes from mail, online, and/or phone surveys for the primary contact for each resident at a facility. Vital Research, an independent research firm under contract with the state of Minnesota, conducts those resident and family surveys. Then, the University of Minnesota analyses resident and family survey data and provides the results that are displayed on the Assisted Living Report Card website.

Tetyana Shippee

Dr. Tetyana Shippee, professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health

“Facility average scores for the Resident Quality of Life survey and the Family Satisfaction survey are calculated by combining the totals from each of the 9 and 8 domains (respectively) and reporting them as the average for the entire facility,” she says. “These scores are then risk adjusted. Risk adjustment helps make comparisons between facilities more fair by accounting for facility characteristics that are out of a facility’s control but still affect a facility’s score. Facility scores are risk adjusted based on where the facility is located (the seven county Twin Cities area or greater Minnesota).”

Benefits of the Assisted Living Report Card

Dr. Shippee explains that the real benefit of the report card is that people can look at specific ratings for facilities they are interested in. “This tool is meant to help people compare facilities to each other and give consumers access to information about quality in assisted living,” she says. As a result, it can play an important role in helping consumers choose an assisted living facility.

The Report Card stands out from other websites that offer reviews in several ways. While other sites may offer reviews or ratings of assisted living facilities, Dr. Shippee notes that those ratings aren’t conducted in a scientific manner, and they may not be objective in how they measure satisfaction. “The State’s resident quality of life and family satisfaction surveys are drawn from a random sample, where every person is equally likely to be selected to complete a survey. This helps to eliminate bias where only highly satisfied or very dissatisfied individuals participate in a survey – the majority of online ratings don’t use a random sample,” she explains.

Additionally, participation in the Report Card is mandatory for all licensed assisted living communities a in Minnesota, and the Report Card is free to use.

The Current Report Card

Merz explains that the Report Card currently includes ratings for about 20% of the assisted living facilities in the state. The Report Card focuses “on the largest facilities, which are home to almost half of all Minnesotans who use assisted living,” Merz says. It lists all assisted living facilities as of September 2023, but only 450 of those facilities have ratings at this time. “The report card will be updated each quarter to add newly licensed facilities and include more ratings,” explains Merz.

At this time, the report card includes resident quality of life and family satisfaction ratings for all facilities that agreed to participate in the first round of surveys. “The legislature has since passed a requirement for assisted living facilities to participate in these surveys starting January 1, 2024,” Merz explains. “Providers who participate in the 2024 round of resident and family quality of life ratings and receive enough survey responses will get report card ratings in resident quality of life and family satisfaction. Additional ratings in resident health, safety, and staffing will likely be added in early 2025 that are based on the Department of Health’s mandatory licensing inspections.”

Dr. Shippee notes that each individual facility can decide their own quality improvement efforts to improve their ratings. “An example of how a facility can conceivably increase their Report Card score could involve them reviewing each individual domain listed for the resident quality of life survey,” she says. “If some domains score lower than the state average, a facility might concentrate efforts in that area. For example, a low score for meaningful activities might lead to providing different activities or ask residents their preferences for meaningful activities. Whether or not this results in a score increase is unknown.”

The Minnesota Assisted Living Report Card takes an innovative approach to not only helping consumers navigate the assisted living search, but also helping quality facilities stand out. It may also help reduce some of the stress associated with looking for an assisted living community, helping to connect residents with communities that are truly the best fit.

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