Washington People can now get quality indicators on all 17,000 nursing homes in the United States, a new government effort to give families tools to make better decisions for loved ones.
Beginning Tuesday, consumers could go to the government Web site www. medicare.gov or call (800) MEDICARE for information on such topics involving nursing homes as the prevalence of physical restraints at a facility or its percentage of residents with bed sores.
Information on deficiencies found during annual inspections and complaint investigations also is being made available.
Donna Lenhoff, executive director of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, called the program "extremely important."
"It means that consumers will be able to find out more information, and they will be alerted to some of the questions they need to ask about nursing homes," Lenhoff said.
She and others cautioned, however, that the information should not be the sole resource when choosing a nursing home. Visiting the facility, talking to residents and getting information from the long-term care ombudsmen's office in each state are still recommended.
All the information provided by Medicare is based on data that nursing homes must collect from residents routinely as part of their participation in the federal Medicare program. Besides providing consumers useful information, government officials are hoping that the new availability of information will prompt owners to improve their facilities.