HHS Launches National Home Health Quality Initiative

HHS Launches National Home Health Quality Initiative

Broad Effort to Improve Quality Provided by Home Health Agencies Across the Country

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson released new data about the quality of care provided by home health agencies across the country as part of an expanding initiative to improve the quality of care given to the millions of Americans who receive home health care. The initiative combines information for consumers and their families about the quality of care provided by individual home health agencies with important resources to assist home health agencies working to improve the quality of care in their facilities.

“This is an effective approach to bringing about better quality care provided by our nation’s home health agencies,” Secretary Thompson said. “Not only will consumers be better informed, but home health agencies themselves will be able to see more clearly what they must do to improve their care. Publishing this kind of quality information creates real incentives for health care providers to further improve the quality of care that they provide to their patients.”

The consumer quality data, along with other information about individual home health agencies, are available at Medicare’s consumer Web site, http://www.medicare.gov, and through Medicare’s help line, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). In addition, HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) tomorrow will publish advertisements in 69 newspapers covering all 50 states and Puerto Rico that will include a sampling of the quality data.

The national launch follows the successful first phase of the initiative, which involved home health agencies in eight states – Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“The initial phase showed that these measures are not only good for consumers, but also good for home health agencies,” Secretary Thompson said. “More than half of the home health agencies in the eight states requested assistance to help them improve their care. That is exactly the type of collaborative effort we expected to see after our experience with nursing homes last year.”

The initiative is part of the Bush Administration’s broader strategy to expand consumer access to quality information and to bolster the quality of health care across the country. Last year, HHS issued quality data about Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes across the country and is working on developing and publishing quality measures for other healthcare providers.

“Home health care is a critical and increasingly utilized service for patients and improving the quality of care given by home health agencies is one of our top goals,” CMS Administrator Tom Scully said. “Home health agencies are just as interested in improving the quality of care they, give to their patients as we are, and the industry has been very supportive. By making this information available to home health agencies and consumers, we are seeing a collaborative effort to do even more to raise the bar on quality. This is a huge step forward in consumer information in health care and we are grateful to all our partners.”

HHS’ National Home Health Quality Initiative is a fourpronged effort, consisting of:

* CMS’ continuing regulatory and enforcement efforts conducted by state survey agencies;

* improved consumer information on the quality of care provided by home health agencies;

* continual community-based, quality improvement programs offered to home health agencies by Medicare’s Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs); and

* collaboration and partnership to leverage knowledge and resources.

The 11 home health quality measures chosen for public reporting are among the 41 Outcomes and Assessment Information Set (OASIS) outcome measures that have been used by home health agencies since 1999. Information about a patient’s health status is collected by home health agency staff using OASIS at the start of care, at discharge or transfer, at follow up (60 day re-certification) and at resumption of care.

CMS selected appropriate quality measures to use for this initiative in consultation with HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and a diverse group of measurement experts, home health professionals and clinicians. The quality measures include:

* four measures related to improvement in getting around (getting better at walking or moving around, getting in and out of bed; getting to and from the toilet and having less pain when moving around);

* four measures related to meeting basic daily needs (getting better at dressing, bathing and taking oral medicines correctly; staying the same and not getting worse at bathing);

* two measures related to medical emergencies (had to be admitted to the hospital and needed urgent, unplanned medical care); and

* one measure related to improvement in mental health (being confused less often).

As part of the initiative, Medicare’s QIOs will continue to work with local home health agencies to improve the quality of care, as well as provide assistance to consumers in helping them better use the quality performance data.

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

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