Glitch kept data out of Nursing Home Compare

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Duane Schrag of the Salina (Kan.) Journal reports on problems he found in the data behind Nursing Home Compare, the federal government’s online tool to help guide consumers in judging the quality of nursing homes.

Schrag says that an area nursing home announced it was shutting down because it couldn’t comply with a state fire marshal’s requirement to replace its sprinkler system. But a check of the Nursing Home Compare data found no fire safety violations for the facility for 2007 or 2008, despite the fact that it had been cited for several fire code violations in both years.

nursing-home-compareWhen the Salina Journal pushed officials to explain why the deficiencies were not showing up, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services discovered a software problem:

But a glitch in the software used by the federal government kept the reports from showing up in Nursing Home Compare. The software blocked more than 1,000 fire code violation reports involving Kansas nursing homes in 2006, a similar number in 2007 and almost 800 in the first six months of 2008.

Nationally, about 21,600 reports were blocked during that same period.

Officials at CMS say the software was fixed on July 23.

Schrag talked to nursing home administrators and found that most of them dispute the rankings that Nursing Home Compare assigns to them; the exception was a nursing home that had a five-star rating.