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Website That Rates Hospice Providers Runs Into Problems

Photo credit: Photo courtesy Heidi de Marco, Kaiser Health News

Nurse Sheri Juan measures a San Diego hospice patient's arm for edema, which could be a sign his congestive heart failure is worsening, Jan. 12, 2017.

Quality of care in the nation’s hospices came under the spotlight in August when the agency that runs Medicare rated some 3,800 facilities nationally, including about two dozen in San Diego County, on seven measures.

Now, the same federal agency that published the online scorecard, Hospice Compare, is getting attention because its website has flaws, and that has delayed the release of more current data. Updated scores were due for release on Nov. 21. KPBS media partner inewsource was among the first news organizations in August to report on the launch of the website.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services acknowledged in a statement Tuesday that the Hospice Compare location search on the website may return incorrect results.

The top of the website now includes this statement to users: “When searching by ‘location’, the list of agencies provided may or may not serve the Zip code, City, or State you entered. We suggest you call any hospice you select to confirm that they serve your area.”

When Medicare launched its site, inewsource used the information to create a searchable database on hospice providers in San Diego County. That database is not affected by the problems with the location search function on the national website.

Medicare created Hospice Compare to satisfy an Affordable Care Act requirement that information be made public about the quality of end-of-life care. The data was based on a one-year period, ending on Sept. 30, 2016, and it rated hospice companies on seven measures known to ease the process of dying.

In its statement Tuesday, Medicare said: “We are currently working to improve the search functionality and will update the website as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience while we work to enhance the end users’ experience with Hospice Compare.”

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