The first round of star ratings about the quality of home health agencies were recently published on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Home Health Compare website.

According to a news release from CMS, star ratings can help consumers more quickly identify differences in quality and make use of the information when selecting a home healthcare provider. They can also help the agencies identify areas for improvement.

“Adding star ratings to Home Health Compare is another step forward in our continuing efforts to empower consumers by providing more information to help them make healthcare decisions, while also encouraging providers to strive for higher levels of quality,” says Dr. Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, acting principal deputy administrator for CMS and deputy administrator for innovation and quality, in the release.

The release explains that each Home Health Agency will receive a single summary Quality of Patient Care Star Rating encompassing that agency’s relative performance on nine of the 29 quality measures already posted on Home Health Compare.

These measures include how often the home health team began their patients’ care in a timely manner, how often the home health team made sure that their patients have received a flu shot for the current flu season, and how often the home health team taught patients (or their family caregivers) about their prescribed drugs.

The measures also include how often home health patients got better at walking or moving around, how often home health patients got better at getting in and out of bed, and how often home health patients had less pain when moving around.

As well, the measures include how often home health patients got better at bathing, how often home health patients’ breathing improved, and how often home health patients had to be admitted to the hospital.

The measures are calculated using information from patient assessments performed by the home health agency (HHA) and from Medicare claims submitted by the HHA. When calculating patient outcomes, statistical models are used to adjust for differences in the types of patients served by different agencies, the release notes.

The new Home Health Compare Quality of Patient Care Star Ratings will be updated each quarter as more recent data become available, per the release.

In addition, CMS plans to introduce additional star ratings based on a patient experience of care survey (the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) instrument) in January 2016.

Per the release, this is the sixth star rating system that has been added to Star ratings are currently publicly displayed on Nursing Home Compare, Physician Compare, Dialysis Facility Compare, the Medicare Advantage Plan Finder, and Hospital Compare.

[Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services]