For Baby Boomer children and their Elderly loved ones who may need skilled home health care services after hospitalization, Medicare has given us access to a tool to help us in our decision making process. This tool is called "Home Health Compare". It helps families and their loved ones compare quality of care in home health agencies.

There are about 47 million people enrolled in the Medicare program, and these Medicare beneficiaries comprise persons 65 years old and above, persons who are disabled, and persons with end-stage-renal disease. With this huge number of beneficiaries, we can appreciate the fact that the Medicare website contains detailed information and data about our Medicare Insurance plans and options - Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D and other choices; it also contains different covered services, including home health services, etc, etc.

There is a mountain of information on the site, and I will say here that people need help sometimes, navigating the site for the precise information they are looking for. Because of the nature of the information, they may also need to be careful in interpreting the information and/or data presented. Medicare always has in their handbooks and other literature, that if anyone has Medicare questions, you can go to their website at or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)

Now about the Tool.
The Tool referenced above "Home Health Compare" is designed for the elderly and their families, for other consumers, and also for the home health care agencies themselves, compare the quality of care provided to their customers. "Home Health Compare" is a compilation of all the Medicare Certified Home Health Agencies in the United States. The information is arranged by State and by location or city. It is an important Tool to help users compare quality of care provided for different quality measures. Experts within the Medicare/Medicaid program and professionals within the industry always stress that Home Health Compare is only one tool, and it should not be used as the only tool or the only means that people use for their decision making or selection of a home health agency.

Access to this important tool is through the Medicare website This site has the names and telephone numbers of all Medicare certified home health agencies, providing "skilled care" - see below for listing of skilled services.

Let us say one of our elderly loved ones will be discharged from the hospital, and the doctor writes a discharge order for for skilled home care based on the need of the patient (our elderly loved one). If the patient has Medicare skilled benefits as part of his/her Medicare Insurance, the hospital discharge planner will help us find a home health agency that is Medicare certified. As an informed consumer, you too can start doing your homework or research by accessing Medicare Home Health Compare website. Medicare Part A or Part B or any other Medicare plan that covers skilled services can only pay for the services if the services are provided by a Medicare certified home health agency.

Now let us go through the step by step process on this internet based system.

1. If I access the Medicare website referenced above, I will land on the page that is titled "Home Health Compare". The system will ask me for the location where I need the agency.

2. I will enter the zip code or the city and State; or I can enter the name of the particular home health agency i want to check out.

3. If I enter the zip code, I will land on the page titled "Home Health Results", "Home Health Agencies that serve (name of city, State)". This page will give me a listing of all the certified home health agencies in that city, with a listing of the skilled services they provide. Skilled services include Nursing Care, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Medical Social Services, and Home Health Aide. There will be check marks to indicate the particular services(s) provided by the home health agency.

4. The system will then ask me to select three (3) home health agencies to compare. I will select three.

5. I will then land on the page titled "Compare Agencies", "Home Health Agencies that service (name of city, State). There is also a sub-title "Quality of Patient Care" on this page. I will see the three agencies I chose, with their names and telephone numbers.

6. This page is structured in a table format, with five (5) columns. The first three columns are titled the names of the agencies, the next column is titled (name of State) Average, and the final column is titled National Average. The table will also display twenty-two (22) "Quality Measures" with the percentage score rate for each measure for each agency; the score for the State average, and the score for the national average.

7. I am listing below eight (8) out of the twenty-two (22) Quality Measures that the agencies are scored on.

QM1.How often patients got better at walking or moving around

QM2.How often patients got better at getting in and out of bed

QM3. How often patients got better at bathing

QM4. How often the home health team checked patients for pain

QM5. How often the home health team treated their patients' pain

QM6. How often the home health team treated heart failure (weakening of the heart)patients' symptoms

QM7. How often patients' wounds improved or healed after an operation

QM8. How often the home health team checked patients for the risk of developing pressure sores (bed sores)

The scores for each quality measure are calculated and presented as percentages as opposed to raw scores. Medicare has a computerized system that does the scoring for each agency, for the state average, and also for the national average. The home health agencies are required to submit computerized data on the services they provide for their patients. The data is submitted through the State to the Federal system, and the computation is done via the software to come up with the percentages.

8. Please access the Medicare Home Health Compare website so you can see how the system works.

The bottom line for the home health agencies, is that they want their scores to be as close to the State averages, or as close to the National averages as possible. The closer the scores to the State and national averages the better their quality of care are as reflected.

As consumers and decision makers we all appreciate the importance of utilizing tools such as Home Health Compare. As has been stated before, we also need to incorporate other factors in addition to the tools for careful selection and decision making.

Nora's website:

Author's Bio: 

Nora Wellington is a long term care consultant, author of easy-to-read books on long term care regulations, and CEO / Founder of N Wellington Associates LLC. She has extensive experience in managing and operating long term care facilities. Wellington also develops training workshops and presentations for small size organizations.

As published author books written:
"The Fundamentals of Quality for Long Term Care Part 1. Nov 2010
"Long Term Care Monitoring Tools - Resident Meal Time and Dining Experience..." June 2012

Articles Written: "Making a Decision to Access Long Term Care"
"Tips to Help You and Your Elderly Loved Ones Become Savvy Consumers of Home Health Care - Medicare Skilled Home Health"

Member of GROWS - Grass Roots Organization for the Well-being of Seniors