New Tool Reveals Nursing Home Infection Violations

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A nurse helps an older patient walk with a cane
Dmytro Zinkevych /

With some nursing homes under scrutiny during the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., consumers may be wondering how to screen these institutions.

A new free tool from Kaiser Health News (KHN) enables the public to look up the infection records of more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country.

Specifically, the tool shows federal inspection citations for facilities that violated infection-control and prevention guidelines. This data is available because these nursing homes accept patients with Medicare or Medicaid health insurance, which makes them subject to certain federal oversights.

More nursing homes have been cited for infection-control violations than any other type of violation, KHN reports. An infection-control violation is a failure “to follow practices designed to prevent and control infections — such as staffers washing their hands before and after helping each resident and wearing gowns and masks around contagious patients,” according to KHN.

Up to 3.8 million infections happen in nursing homes annually, killing nearly 388,000 residents.

How to use the tool

Kaiser Health News’ new nursing home look-up tool has several tabs, which offer different ways to view the state-by-state data.

The “state data” tab shows and explains four levels of violations. To use this tab, select a state from the “Choose a state” pull-down menu below the map.

Once the state appears on the map, you can click on it to zoom in on a particular part of the state. Then, click on one of the dots that represent nursing homes to view more details about that facility. You will see:

  • Its name
  • Its location
  • Its rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool (out of five stars)
  • The level of its most serious related citation
  • The total number of infection citations it has received since 2017

The “Table” tab of KHN’s new tool gives the same information, but formatted as a list. You’ll see nursing homes in the state you’ve selected, listed in alphabetical order.

KHN notes that violations of infection control and prevention protocols “rarely” are reflected in the overall star ratings that Medicare gives nursing homes on its own comparison tool. The publication adds:

“Even among nursing homes crowned with the maximum government rating of five stars for overall quality, nearly half have been cited for an infection-control lapse.”

To learn about other nursing home screening aids, check out “Looking for a Nursing Home? These 2 New Tools Can Help.”

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