The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has launched a new tool meant to help patients and their families find hospice care that best suits their needs.
Hospice Compare is a new website that displays metrics related to the quality of care that a hospice provider delivers to its patients. The site is part of the CMS Compare family of websites, which aims to offer consumers pertinent information in their search for health care. Current websites include platforms specific to long-term care hospitals, nursing homes and home health care, among others.
In Hospice Compare, users can conduct their search by looking up a specific hospice provider, or refining their search based on their location.
Users can compare up to three providers at once and see how each measure up against each other, as well as against the national average, which is based on information submitted by 3,876 hospice care providers, according to CMS.
The ratings displayed on the website are based on six metrics based on patient preferences and managing pain and treating symptoms. These include whether the patient was checked for pain at the beginning of hospice care; if the patient got timely treatment for shortness of breath; and if patients received a timely and thorough pain assessment when pain was identified, among others.
The Hospice Compare site ultimately will include data from both CMS’ Hospice Item Set (HIS) and Hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) Survey. However, the site is only displaying HIS data currently, Joy Cameron, vice president of policy and innovation at Arlington, Virginia-based ElevatingHOME, noted. Public display of Hospice CAHPS® Survey data will not be added onto the site until winter 2018.
“The current Hospice Compare site is a good first step and ElevatingHOME looks forward to working with CMS on their rating system development and implementation,” Cameron told Home Health Care news.
Working alongside CMS to refine the website is also a priority for Katharine Eastvold, director of regulatory and government affairs with the Illinois HomeCare & Hospice Council (IHHC).
“The website is pretty bare bones right now in terms of measures that are on there,” Eastvold told HHCN. “[I know] that CMS is looking at putting more data on there, including some measures from its CAHPS surveys in the future so I think we’ll get a better sense of how it actually affects the industry as it becomes more robust and more fleshed out.”
The rollout of Hospice Compare bolsters the significance of promoting industry-wide quality improvement and safety measures, according to Corina Tracy, executive vice president and COO of Brentwood, Tennessee-based hospice and palliative-care provider Compassus. But like Eastvold, Tracy also believes that there is plenty of room for the website’s improvement.
“We believe there is more work to be done to ensure that the clinical processes reported by Hospice Compare truly result in improved outcomes for patients,” Tracy told HHCN. “We strongly believe that our industry and CMS must continue to advance end-of-life quality measurement, as we believe true quality in hospice can really only be measured using patient-reported outcomes.”
While CMS has implemented its “Five-Star Quality Rating System” on its Nursing Home Compare site, it has not yet implemented it for Hospice Compare. The agency will announce the timing of the development and implementation of this rating system for Hospice Compare in future rule making.
The rollout of Hospice Compare is part of CMS’ Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP), which falls under a section of the Social Security Act. Under the Act, hospice providers are required to report data to CMS on various quality measures selected through notice and comment rulemaking.
“The Hospice Compare website is an important tool for the American people and will help empower them in a time of vulnerability as they look for information necessary to make important decisions about hospice care for loved ones,” said Seema Verma, CMS administrator.
Having this tool not only benefits consumers, but also keeps providers accountable, according to Eastvold.
“We’re always happy to see members of the public seeking out more information about hospice and looking at their options before they choose a hospice for a loved one,” said Eastvold. “And, certainly, our members welcome evaluations of quality and whatever they can do to improve quality of care, which is something that has always been a priority for us.”
Written by Carlo Calma