Program launched to improve state's nursing homes

By Julie Fann

A government Web site offering information on all 17,000 nursing homes in the U.S. was made available to the public on Tuesday, and a Memphis-based agency contracted by the Centers for Medicare will now be assisting Tennessee's nursing homes with improvements.
   The Web site is designed to give families critical facts about nursing homes as they search for quality care for elderly loved ones. Consumers can now access or call 1-800-MEDICARE for information on topics such as the prevalence of physical restraints at a facility or the percentage of patients with bed sores.
   QSource, the Memphis-based agency contracted through Medicare and Medicaid, will play a critical role in the federal initiative by offering assistance to 343 Medicare and/or Medicaid-certified nursing homes in Tennessee.
   QSource has partnered with organizations that represent nursing homes and the interests of residents, as well as the individual nursing homes across the state.
   "We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the Tennessee Health Care Association (THCA), State Ombudsmen and State Survey Agency," said Fran Myatt, Nursing Home Program Manager for QSource. "Everyone has the same goal, and that is to improve the quality of nursing home care for all Tennesseans. We're proud to be a part of this collaborative effort."
   QSource will provide nursing homes with materials, technical support and strategies to upgrade the clinical and organizational systems of the nursing homes. This will include establishing clinical care teams, providing training information for nursing home personnel, and creating model policies and protocols.
   "The quality data will help nursing homes identify areas in need of improvement," said Myatt. "We are always looking for ways in which to improve care and services to residents, and this initiative is a step in the right direction."
   The information released Tuesday is an initiative that started six months ago on a pilot level. After the study was completed, it was taken to a national level.
   "The administrator of Centers for Medicare got a call about a family matter from someone. They wanted to know where to place their father and asked him. He said, 'I don't know,' then realized there must be some way to publicly report how hospitals and nursing homes measure up," said Lynn Maples, Communications Specialist for QSource.
   Maples said the initiative is actually meant to extend across the entire health care system, so that hospitals and nursing homes have an opportunity to share helpful information with each other, hopefully improving quality across the board.