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Federal government provides information about in-home health care

U.S.Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson believes the quality of health services provided to patients in their homes will improve, if patients and their families are armed with information about such services in their communities.

Thompson has unveiled a home health quality initiative to help people who rely on Medicare and Medicaid programs find the best programs or companies, which provide health and nursing services in homes.

"We will give consumers the information that they need to compare home health agencies based on quality and to make sound choices about their care," Thompson says. "As we've learned during our similar nursing home initiative, giving consumers and healthcare providers this kind of data creates powerful incentives to improve the quality of care provided to patients."

HHS' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the program in 2003 in eight states - Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, Wisconsin and West Virginia. CMS will publish information about the quality of various home health agencies in these eight states.  Thompson says Medicare and Medicaid recipients, as well as their families, can use the information to find the best home health services available in their area.  Thompson believes providing this information will encourage home health providers to improve quality.

The information will be available in newspapers in the eight states and online at http://www.medicare.gov.

By the fall of 2003, HHS hopes to expand the program to all 50 states.

"Most people with Medicare and Medicaid coverage prefer to remain in their homes rather than being in a nursing home or other institution, whenever possible," CMS Administrator Tom Scully says. "It is our responsibility to provide people who rely on home health care with the most up-to-date information available about the quality of care and give them tools to decide which home health provider can best meet their needs."

"We already collect extensive data on every home health patient in the country. [This information] helped us identify the quality measures that would be most useful to patients and their families," Scully says. "We found in nursing homes that quality comparisons not only help patients, but they create a 'buzz' about quality among nursing home staff and administrators that is very positive."

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