Home Health Compare takes the stage with star ratings

On July 16, 2015, CMS launched its latest consumer site for searching and comparing health care providers. Users may search the site to find home health agencies (HHAs) in their area that offer specific services and see quality ratings with explanations of the quality measures. Home Health Compare also provides the results of surveys of patients rating the care they received from the HHA. According to CMS’ announcement, the agency plans to update the page quarterly as more recent data become available.

Search feature

At the main page, the user may search for an HHA by city and state or zip code. There also is an option to enter a provider’s name. If the user leaves the name field blank, all providers who are willing to serve patients in that location appear in alphabetical order. The list will show the provider’s name, telephone number, and check marks to indicate whether the provider offers nursing care, physical, occupational, or speech therapy, medical social services, and home health aide services.

There is no option to sort providers by proximity, and the only indication of the provider’s location on the list is the telephone number. Although all providers offer nursing and home health aide services, not all offer every kind of therapy or medical social services. To search only for providers of a specific service, the user may use filters in a column on the right about halfway down the page. The user may use the arrows under “home health agency information” to sort in reverse alphabetical order, but there is no option to skip to provider names beginning with a specific letter of the alphabet.

Quality information

The star ratings are summaries. CMS chose nine quality measures to report out of 27 that it has collected, believing that these measures are both more consistent and more likely to vary among providers. Quality information is taken from the Outcome Assessment Information Set (OASIS) reports submitted by the HHAs. The quality measures include both process measures and outcome measures. The process measures address whether a patient was assessed for pain, depression, or risks of pressure sores or falls, and were offered flu and pneumonia vaccinations.

The outcome measures address two areas, improvement in the patients’ conditions and utilization of other services. For example, CMS measured how many patients saw improvement in their abilities to perform activities of daily living, such as walking, bathing, or taking medication, or improvement of symptoms, such as reduction of pain and easier breathing. The utilization measures concerned the number of patients who underwent acute care hospitalizations, who went to a hospital emergency department but were not admitted, with particular focus on the percentage who were readmitted or taken to the emergency department within the first 30 days of home health care. Each HHA’s percentages are compared with the averages in the state and the nation.

Compare feature

The user may select up to three HHAs to compare. The HHAs will be displayed in adjacent columns with the date of initial certification and form of ownership, e.g., religious affiliation or proprietary, and the services offered. A quality tab shows the star ratings for each HHA, if available. If ratings are unavailable, clicking on a footnote generates an explanation, such as an insufficient number of patients during the reporting period. The state and national averages appear in columns to the right on the quality and patient experience tabs.

Patient experience

The information on this tab comes from patients’ responses to the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems (HHCAHCPS). The ratings concern patients’ beliefs about the professionalism of the health care tam, how well the team communicated with the patient, whether certain issues such as pain and home safety were addressed, an overall rating, and whether the patient would recommend the HHA to friends or family. Each of these percentage scores is compared with state and national averages.