CMS on Thursday added to the Nursing Home Compare Web site a searchable database with the names of nursing homes that rank in the lowest 5% to 10% in quality based on state inspection results, the Wall Street Journal reports. CMS first released the information in the database as a list of Special Focus Facilities that includes about 130 of the 16,000 nursing homes in the U.S. In addition to the database, the Web site, which CMS updates monthly, includes summarized information from state inspections and data that nursing homes must submit to regulators about their residents.

According to consumer advocacy groups, the CMS Web site provides the most complete information on the quality of nursing homes in the U.S. In addition, a number of private Web sites that offer information on the quality of nursing homes are "improving their offerings," and sites "focused on nursing homes in particular states are available," the Journal reports. Consumer advocacy groups maintain that such Web sites can help determine the quality of nursing homes but do not provide a substitute for in-person visits. Elinor Ginzler, a senior vice president at AARP, said that consumers should examine information on pain management, cases of pressure sores and use of restraints when they consider nursing homes.

The move by CMS to expand the Web site marks the latest step in a "trend toward giving consumers easier access to a trove of nursing home information online," the Journal reports. Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have introduced a bill that would require disclosure of additional information on the quality of nursing homes. Grassley hopes to include the legislation in a Medicare bill expected to reach the Senate floor this summer. He said, "More transparency will drive better quality care" (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 4/24).

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