Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Ohio guide to nursing homes will be on Internet next year

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — People searching for a nursing home no longer will have to spend hours trying to gather information from several sources. The state is creating a one-stop shopping guide that will go online within a year.

        The Internet site will include quality of care, customer satisfaction, accepted payment methods and available services. It will describe the living environment at a nursing home, such as whether there is a community room.

        “Most people don't think about long-term care until they are in a crisis situation. Those are usually emotional times, and they need information quickly,” said Beverley Laubert, the long-term care ombudsman for the Ohio Department of Aging. “This will provide them with tons of information that's all in one place.”

        The department will create searchable profiles of each of Ohio's more than 1,000 nursing homes, with input from the nursing home industry and consumer groups. The guide is to be online by Sept. 1.

        Such guides have been developed in about a dozen other states, including California, Florida, Iowa, Texas and Michigan.

        The federal government in 1998 created a similar Web site through the Health Care Financ ing Administration, providing information on each of the 16,500 facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid.

        Craig Palosky, a spokesman for the HCFA, said the site is composed only of data individual states supply and isn't as detailed as state guides, which cover fewer facilities.

        The American Association of Retired Persons is working with the state “to make it something that's going to add value to what's already out there on the federal site,” said Ron Bridges, AARP Ohio's government affairs representative.

        Some of the information to be included in Ohio's guide — such as customer satisfaction surveys requested by the AARP and other consumer groups — is not now readily available. Independent companies will ask 30,000 nursing home residents and their families what they think of their care.

        Also, for the first time, state and federal measures of the quality of care provided in each facility will be available to the public.

        Since the information in the guide will come from a variety of state agencies, nursing homes and professional associations, disclaimers telling consumers the source of opinions and data will be posted, Ms. Laubert said.

        “The main task in the next 12 months is going to be to structure information in an easy-to-digest manner because there's going to be so much of it,” said Jo Ellen Skelley-Walley, the project's coordinator.

        Currently, consumers looking for a nursing home can get help and information in meetings with Department of Aging representatives. They also can use a variety of paper resources, including a printed nursing home directory.

        “This guide will add to those resources,” Ms. Skelley-Walley said. “And, it's not only going to be for selecting a nursing home, but to check on the quality of care a loved one in a nursing home is receiving.”

        Maintaining the guide is expected to cost more than $1 million per year. The law that created the guide requires each of Ohio's nursing homes to pay $400 yearly and for the Legislature to appropriate the rest of the money.

        The nursing home industry supports the guide.

        “We're proud of the care we give, and this will be an objective measurement that will be out there to show people what's really happening in our facilities,” said Steve Mould, spokesman for the Ohio Heath Care Association, which represents nearly 820 nonprofit and for-profit nursing and assisted-living facilities.


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