For Medicare-certified home health agencies seeking to differentiate themselves, the Home Health Compare website managed by CMS can be a powerful tool. Potential clients, private payers, and government funders use the website to identify, compare, and partner with outstanding agencies.
However, to get the most from this tool, agencies need to understand how the website works and how they can maximize their quality ratings to achieve the coveted five stars across the board.
Let’s explore this further.
What Is Home Health Compare?
Home Health Compare strives to provide an unbiased opinion by compiling critical agency information from a variety of sources to assign six objective ratings, each on a five-star scale. These star ratings help both consumers and insurers identify how well an agency meets established quality standards.
The standards span four key performance measures:
- Quality measures. Multiple quality measures are calculated, based on patient assessments that agencies conduct and claim information that agencies submit to CMS. The ratings fall into two categories:
- Process of care measures, which detail how often an agency gave the recommended care
- Outcome of care measures, which compare the results of the care an agency provided compared to other agencies, while also accounting for patient differences
- Quality of patient care star rating. This star rating is a summary measure of how well an agency performs on nine of the 29 individual quality measures identified above.
- Patient experience of home health care survey. This rating summarizes responses from the 34-question Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) Survey taken by patients and their family and friends regarding their home health agency experience.
- Patient experience of care star ratings. Two types of patient experience star ratings are based on data obtained from the HHCAHPS survey:
- Four individual star ratings for each survey measure: care of patients, communication between providers and patients, specific care issues, and a global measure.
- One summary survey star rating, which averages the four survey measures.
Part of the importance of this rating system is its simplicity for consumers: It highlights important quality of care data and facilitates smart home health agency decisions. But top ratings also help referral sources and payer sources select the top agencies with whom they want to work. Top ratings can also boost an agency’s ability to recruit and retain qualified staff.
As a result, improving rankings — and striving for five stars — is critical to providers who want to transform into an agency with a strong referral stream. But achieving this distinction doesn’t happen overnight. This is a long-term project that requires continuous performance measurement and cutting-edge tools to accomplish.
The following seven strategies can help agencies achieve top ratings by improving their quality of care, performance, and patient outcomes.
Tips for Improving Care Quality
- Establish a communication plan. Clients should be kept apprised of vital information and instructions throughout their care. This helps them stay actively engaged in their care, which has been shown to improve outcomes.
- Encourage data accuracy. To provide optimal care, caregivers must take and input accurate notes, which isn’t always easy to do after a day of back-to-back client visits. But implementing a digital solution that allows on-site data entry can help increase documentation accuracy and completion rates. The benefits of real-time solutions can also help agency staff submit on-time, correct reports to CMS.
- Improve the quality of data submitted through OASIS. Compliance with OASIS collection and transmission obligations is a home health agency requirement, and an agency’s Home Health Compare quality measure scores come directly from the data submitted through OASIS. So when agency employees — including clinicians and staff — are trained to meet or exceed OASIS expectations and submit timely, accurate data, star scores will improve.
- Encourage feedback. The more clients who complete the patient satisfaction questionnaire, the more accurate and informative the survey results will be. Encouraging all clients to thoroughly complete the survey gives each agency a comprehensive view of where improvement is needed and where they excel.
- Use technology. When caregivers have access to real-time client information via robust mobile applications, they better understand how their care compares with star ratings criteria and they can facilitate the changes that improve delivery of care. Similarly, robust computer portals enable agency staff to review and analyze this data, so they can identify and act on areas of improvement.
- Improve one measure at a time. Trying to improve every measure at once rarely achieves the desired effect. Instead, agencies should choose one area of improvement and focus their efforts on it. As the star ratings on that measure improve, agency staff will have a better understanding of the level of effort and strategies required to make improvements on other measures.
- Identify smart improvements. Agencies should always be looking for ways to improve — regardless of ratings. Monitoring which improvements would benefit clients and agencies the most (as well as deviations from goals) lets agencies evaluate achievements against established benchmarks.
With prospective clients and insurers using the ratings on Home Health Compare to identify and evaluate home health agencies, five-star ratings must be every agency’s goal. To achieve those goals, agencies must learn to proactively identify areas of improvement and leverage the solutions that will tap into a solid referral stream and ensure an agency’s continued success.
To learn more about how to measure performance, download our “Measure What Matters for Successful Home Care Management” white paper today.