FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
YONKERS, NY – October 19, 2004 — Consumers Union (CU), the publisher of ConsumerReports.org, has learned that the 2004 Nursing Home Watch List, previously published at www.consumerhealthchoices.org, www.consumersunion.org, and www.consumerreports.org, may be based on incomplete data, due to processing problems encountered by its external project consultant.
Consequently, CU is temporarily withdrawing the 2004 Watch List, pending further review. Until this review is completed and any necessary revisions are made, the 2004 Nursing Home Watch List should not be used in choosing a facility. Instead, please refer to the general advice available at www.ConsumerReports.org from the “Consumer Protection” page.
Charles Bell, Director of Programs in CU’s Executive Office said, “CU carefully adheres to high standards for accuracy and thoroughness. However, shortly after posting this year’s Watch List, we learned from our consultant that the conclusions provided to us may be based on data that is not complete. We do not at this point know what the impact of this missing data may be. As a result, we are temporarily withdrawing the 2004 Nursing Home Watch List and asking our readers not to use the 2004 list until further notice. We are looking into the nature and source of the data problem, with a goal of republishing the 2004 list.”
“The previous watch lists published in 2000, 2001 and 2002 are not affected by the data questions surrounding the 2004 list. We sincerely regret any inconvenience to our readers and others resulting from this situation,” Bell said.
To help prepare the 2004 Nursing Home Watch List, CU contracted with researchers at The Texas A & M University System Health Science Center, School of Rural Public Health, in College Station, Texas to analyze federal data regarding state nursing home inspection reports. Those researchers are investigating the possibility that some state survey data may not have been included in the analyses. They indicate that, given the complexity of the database and the data processing, it is likely to take a number of weeks before the reassessment can be completed.
Background About Nursing Home Watch List
Since the year 2000, CU’s Center for Consumer Health Choices has regularly published a Nursing Home Watch List. Based on a comprehensive national analysis of state inspection surveys of nursing home facilities and enforcement actions, the Watch List identifies approximately 10 percent of nursing homes in each state whose inspection reports may raise concerns about the quality of care given to residents. The list provides the opportunity to examine trends in the quality of nursing home care across the country.
The survey data is contained in The Online Survey and Certification Automatic Reporting (OSCAR) System, a database maintained and disseminated annually by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Each annual database contains a number of files with information on more than 16,000 nursing homes and tens of thousands of deficiencies for which they are cited by state survey teams. To create the Watch List, the multiple files and thousands of records reflecting four years of OSCAR data are merged to generate a single Watch List.
Quality of care issues continue to plague the U.S. nursing home industry, with many nursing homes being cited repeatedly for violations that may put residents at serious risk. While it is common for nursing homes to maintain that their latest inspection survey has been deficiency free, families seeking a facility cannot rely on such assessments. By presenting multiple years of state survey data, the Watch List has provided families with the historical perspective they need, indicating which facilities are chronically poor performers. The Watch List also identifies facilities with an up-and-down “yo-yo” pattern of compliance, in which a good year is followed by bad, over a long period of time.
Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports®, is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. CU supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.
The Nursing Home Watch List project was undertaken with grant support from The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation supporting independent research on health and social issues.