Hospitals can better help patients choose a nursing home

Health facilities may not give patients and caregivers enough information to choose the right post-acute care.

Health facilities may not be arming patients and caregivers with enough information to choose the right nursing home or other post-acute care.

Hospitals fear violating federal rules that prevent them from limiting patients’ care choices, according to an article from Kaiser Health News, but they are not prohibited from sharing quality data and other information that could make the choice easier for patients.

Several health systems, including Partners HealthCare in Massachusetts, have programs in place to provide more detailed information to patients and caregivers on post-acute care options like nursing homes.

Partners, according to the article, has a network of preferred and high-quality nursing home providers, but still provides patients with a full list of their options. Vincent Mor, a professor of health services, policy and practice at the Brown University School of Public Health, told KHN that such programs are rare. He and his research team visited 16 U.S. hospitals and only four offered any sort of quality data to patients about nursing homes.

“Generally hospitals don’t tell patients or their families much about any kind of patterns of neglect or abuse,” Michael Connors, a staffer at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, told KHN. “Even the worst nursing homes are nearly full because hospitals keep sending patients to them.”

Nursing homes are a key element of care for senior citizens, and as many as half of nursing home patients may end up in the emergency room at least once a year. Research has found that nursing home staff with strong ties to local hospitals are linked with reduced emergency department referrals.

The federal government has offered incentives to drive hospitals to make better discharges—for instance, penalizing them for high 30-day readmission rates—but hospitals may also push too far for patients to go to affiliated nursing homes, according to the article. Some have been penalized by federal regulators for pressuring patients to use their facilities, which may have low quality ratings compared to peers.