Web Site Posts Unreliable Data on Nursing Homes, Report Finds

'Nursing Home Compare,' the government Web site that disseminates information about conditions in individual nursing homes, has major flaws that can mislead families seeking a safe facility, according to a Congressional report.

The report, prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) by staff of the Committee on Government Reform, found that the data on Medicare's 'Nursing Home Compare' Web site does not include tens of thousands of recent violations of federal health standards, including nearly 60 percent of the violations involving death or serious injury. As a result, many nursing homes with documented violations of federal health standards are incorrectly portrayed on Nursing Home Compare as complying with federal standards.

The Nursing Home Compare site, which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is one of the most popular Medicare Web destinations, receiving almost 100,000 visits per month. The site features a searchable database that allows the public to determine the level of compliance with federal health standards of most nursing homes in the United States. The site states that its primary purpose 'is to provide the public with detailed information about the performance of every Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing home in the country.' HHS recently launched a $30 million ad touting the site as 'filled with reliable health care information . . . [to] help you . . . locate nursing homes for yourself or a loved one.'

Congressional investigators, however, discovered that Nursing Home Compare includes only those violations found during annual inspections of nursing homes conducted by state officials. It does not contain any violations found when the same state officials investigate complaints about nursing homes.

Between October 1, 2000, and December 31, 2001, states investigated approximately 52,000 complaints about conditions in nursing homes. These investigations resulted in 25,204 documented violations of federal health standards. All of these 25,204 violations'”of which 23,092 had at least the potential to harm residents--are excluded from Nursing Home Compare. These included 1,138 violations serious enough to have caused or have the potential to cause death or serious injury to residents, and 4,406 violations that resulted in 'actual harm' to residents.

The investigators found many nursing homes that received a clean bill of health on Nursing Home Compare that actually had extremely serious violations, including violations that had caused resident deaths.

The report, 'HHS 'Nursing Home Compare' Website Has Major Flaws,' can be downloaded in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format from: https://www.house.gov/reform/min/pdfs/pdf_inves/pdf_nursing_compare_rep.pdf