Star Ratings update

Don’t you love the new focus on quality by your competitors just because those stats are now represented by stars rather than percentages?  Have you noticed that press releases are everywhere, office buildings display large banners offering self-congratulatory messages to 4 and 5 star agencies?  I know you might be a little jealous if that isn’t your agency. But if it is your agency, you have every right and deserve the distinction and honor of receiving such a rating! Obtaining a 4 or 5 star rating isn’t easy and the fact that your agency has been recognized for providing such care is something you should be very proud of and not be afraid to express.

October 8th is the newest release of quality data released on Home Health Compare.  These new ratings will likely be great for some agencies, but might not be for others.  As the data is now public, you should have been able to forecast the results, as preview reports were uploaded to the CASPER system for your agency’s review.

CMS has recently released some information on this month’s data refresh.  Agencies might see some small changes from July’s preview reports to the actual data.  CMS states that ‘measure values were recalculated after the dissemination of the preview reports to include any late or correct submission received after measure values were initially calculated, for each month during the 12-month reporting period’.  Furthermore, CMS adds that these slight variances will not have an impact on actual star ratings, just the calculation of the data.

In future releases, CMS will not be providing any preview reports until all data, including on time and late data has been aggregated for calculation purposes.  For agencies who believe the star ratings may negatively impact their organization, CMS does allow your agency to request that data be suppressed and not be used for star ratings.  To request your data be suppressed, you must use the CASPER system and follow the instructions included with your preview report.

The star ratings are here to stay and agencies that do well will continue to use the data as a marketing tool.  As consumers and patients have an easier understanding of the actual stars, 1 being the bottom and 5 being the top or best, effective marketing of 4 and 5 star agencies will continue.

Agencies can continue to improve and keep their excellent rating by focusing on a few key elements.  However, many of the elements that do drive the star ratings for agencies in general can be significantly altered based on the type of patients your agency serves.

As mentioned before, agencies that provide more long term services to patients in order to maintain their current condition are likely to receive lower ratings by default because quality data doesn’t show much improvement.  But for agencies who are focused on providing therapy services to patients who are just out of the hospital then go on to outpatient rehab, those quality data elements will show a change – hopefully for the better.

A key to making your agency reach new star ratings and improve will be dependent upon the programs you offer.  It is one thing to have a CHF program or a new therapy program that focuses on specific modalities – it’s another to actually put them in place.  Therapy is still a key factor in not only reimbursement, but quality data coupled with strong nursing presences.

Agencies that see the best growth measures offer consistent staff to patients.  This means the same nurse starts the patient and follows the patient to the end.  What this also means is that a strong a RN and LPN can do the same effectively for nursing and achieve excellent results.  As for therapy, a therapist and an assistant can follow the same model and provide excellent care.  They key is to make sure these same teams are working well together, know their patients and are only assigned to these patients – not constantly reassigned to other patients.

While this is just the beginning, this type of change can have a quick and large impact on your operations and quality of patient care.  This will directly translate into better statistics that will help your agency stand out from the others!  Contact us if you would like more information on how to make your agency one with large banners hanging outside your office, handing out marketing material with 4 and 5 stars all over it!