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Nursing home complaints, taken together with other measures, can be used to assess nursing home quality of care

Nursing home consumer complaints can be used along with other data to assess nursing home quality of care, and complaints can be a source of valuable information for prospective residents and families when they are choosing a nursing home. These are the findings of a recent study conducted by David G. Stevenson, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10803).

For the study, Dr. Stevenson analyzed nursing home complaints data from Massachusetts during 1998-2002. He matched facility-level complaints data with standard nursing home survey assessment data (from the On-Line Survey Certification and Reporting, OSCAR, and the Minimum Data Set Quality Indicator, MDS QI) to evaluate the association between consumer complaints, facility and resident characteristics, and other nursing home quality measures.

During the 5-year study period, 4,400 consumer complaints and 5,978 complaint allegations were received about care provided in 539 free-standing nursing homes in Massachusetts. The five most frequent complaints involved quality of care (29 percent), abuse/neglect (14 percent), residents' rights/quality of life (13 percent), inadequate staff/services (13 percent), and injury (12 percent). Complaints were consistently and significantly associated with standard survey quality of care deficiencies (for example, pressure sores), the presence of serious deficiencies, and nurse aide staffing.

Complaints were not significantly associated with nurse staffing, and associations with six of the MDS QIs were mixed. Nevertheless, the number of consumer complaints was significantly predictive of quality of care deficiencies identified at the subsequent survey inspection.

See "Nursing home consumer complaints and their potential role in assessing quality of care," by Dr. Stevenson, in the February 2005 Medical Care 43(2), pp. 102-111.

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