There are many factors to consider when choosing a home health provider. One of the most important is quality. What are the home health agency’s star ratings? Do they make it a priority to keep you out of the hospital as much as possible, and can they support their claims with data?
A startling 94% of patients choose a home health provider with lower quality scores, despite having a provider with higher quality scores in the same area. Learning about home health quality measures can help you make an informed choice, so you get care that improves your life.
Why Quality Matters
Choosing a high-quality home health provider that is recognized for exceptional care can help increase your likelihood of:
- Successfully learning how to manage your health condition(s)
- Achieving your goals (for example, having less pain or being able to move around, breathe, bathe or do other activities easier)
- Recovering faster, which can reduce the cost of care
- Experiencing better quality of life
- Identifying a change or worsening of symptoms early, which can help reduce complications, get you additional care as ordered by your doctor, and prevent unnecessary trips to the hospital
- Understanding your condition and medications, which can also reduce your risk of an unplanned visit to the hospital
- Having a comfortable, positive home health experience
- Getting care from experienced professionals, who want to work at top home health companies
- Staying healthy at home
Understanding Home Health Quality Measures
There are several objective indicators of quality that can help you choose the best home health care provider for your needs. These measures gauge how well the agency cares for its patients, how often it uses best practices, whether patients improve in important areas and what other patients said about their experience.
#1 Home Health Star Ratings
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports on home health quality measures on the Home Health Compare website. There is a lot of information about different quality measures available. To make it easier to gauge a home health agency’s quality without spending a lot of time researching, Medicare created “star ratings.” This summary of the agency’s quality scores can help you quickly make well-informed healthcare decisions.
Home health star ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the highest quality. Star ratings are particularly helpful because they’re based on specific, measurable data, not personal opinions.
There are two types of home health star ratings:
Quality of Patient Care Star Ratings
Quality of Patient Care Star Ratings gauge how well agencies help patients regain or maintain key functional abilities and if they adhere to evidence-based practices. They’re updated quarterly based on data collected by CMS about home health providers nationwide.
Most home health agencies have an average score, which is 3-3½ stars. If an agency’s Quality of Patient Care Star Rating is below 3-3½, it performed below average compared to other home health providers. If an agency scores above 3-3½ stars, it performed above average.
The Quality of Patient Care Star Rating is based on these eight quality measures:
- Timely initiation of patient care
- Better ability to take medications correctly by mouth
- Better ability to move/walk
- Improvement in getting in and out of bed
- Better ability to bathe yourself
- Less pain when engaging in activity
- Less shortness of breath
- Less need for acute care hospitalization (fewer trips to the hospital following a home health stay)
Patient Experience of Care Star Rating
These home health star ratings reflect patients’ personal experience, using data from patients and families who have received care from the agency. Patients describe their home health team’s professionalism, communication and care, as well as whether they’d recommend the agency to others. These ratings are updated quarterly by CMS, based on the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) survey.
The Patient Care Star Rating is based on four quality measures:
- Care of patients (for example, being treated gently, with courtesy and respect)
- Communication between providers and patients (listening, explaining treatment, informing patients of when they’re coming)
- Specific care issues (talking about medications, home safety and pain)
- Overall rating of care
As with Quality of Patient Care Star Ratings, home health providers rate above average in patient satisfaction if they have more than 3-3½ stars.
#2 Acute Care Hospitalization Rates
Top home health agencies take preventative measures that keep hospital admission rates at or below the national average. Fewer unnecessary hospital visits means you can stay where you are most comfortable – home. With acute care hospitalization (ACH) rates, look for a number at or below the state and national averages.
#3 Awards and Recognitions
Top home health agencies often earn objective, third-party recognitions. There are two main types of awards home health agencies can receive. These include:
HomeCare Elite Award
This is an annual listing of the top-performing home health agencies in the U.S., compiled by ABILITY® Network and DecisionHealth based on publicly reported data. Recognized agencies demonstrate an industry-leading commitment to quality, best practices, patient experience and other quality measures. There are three different categories:
- Top 100 agency of the HomeCare Elite – top 100 home health agencies nationwide
- Top 500 agency of the HomeCare Elite – top 500 home health agencies nationwide
- Top Agency of the HomeCare Elite – top 25% of home health agencies nationwide
This is an annual listing of home health agencies that consistently show a commitment to high-quality service and patient satisfaction, based on data from the HHCAHPS survey. The SHPBest award has three categories:
- Best-of-the-Best Award – the home health agency with the best overall score
- Premier Performer – top 5% of home health providers nationwide
- Superior Performer – top 20% of home health providers nationwide
How to Check a Home Health Agency’s Quality Scores
Now that you know which home health quality measures to look for, let’s go over where you can find them.
Check Home Health Compare. CMS’ Home Health Compare website allows you to check quality scores and do a side-by-side comparison of the home health agencies you’re considering.
Ask Your Doctor. Healthcare providers can help you navigate your home health options. If your doctor recommends a specific home health agency, know that you’re free to choose the provider you feel will best meet your needs. When making this decision, be sure to research home health star ratings and other quality scores.
Call Home Health Agencies. Any provider you’re considering should be able to describe their quality scores and how they stack up against competitors. Talking to a home health professional will also give you insight into the agency’s other specialties and strengths that may not be captured in home health star ratings.
With home health, quality matters. You may be more likely to get the care you need – and the outcome you want – with a high-quality home health provider. If a need for home health arises, take a couple minutes to research quality, so you can find the very best care for your needs.
Call an Amedisys care center near you to learn about our commitment to high-quality home health care.