Medicare Unveils ‘Skeletal’ Site For Hospice Comparison Shopping

Kaiser Health News, August 18, 2017

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week released Hospice Compare. the measurements of quality, which are self-reported by hospices, have limited utility, some experts say.

This article first appeared August 08, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Melissa Bailey<

Medicare launched a website aimed at helping families choose a hospice — but experts say it doesn’t help very much.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week released Hospice Compare, a consumer-focused website that lets families compare up to three hospice agencies at a time, among 3,876 nationwide. Following similar websites for hospitals and nursing homes, the site aims to improve transparency and empower families to “take ownership of their health,” according to a press release.

Through the website, families can see how hospices performed in seven categories, including how many patients were screened for pain and breathing difficulties, and how many patients on opioids were offered treatment for constipation.

But the measurements of quality, which are self-reported by hospices, have limited utility, some experts say. Over three-quarters of hospices scored at least 91 percent out of 100 on six of the seven categories, a recent paper in Health Affairs found. Because so many hospices reported high marks, there is “little room” for using these metrics to measure hospice quality, argued the authors, led by Dr. Joan Teno at the University of Washington.

The Hospice Compare grades are based on hospices reporting whether they followed a specific process, such as screening for pain when the patient arrives. This type of metric may lead staff to just check a box to indicate they completed the desired process, resulting in high grades for everyone, which is not helpful for consumers or for quality improvement, the authors wrote.

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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