Help for consumers: How to research California nursing homes

For consumers looking for skilled-nursing care, several government agencies and nonprofit groups assemble information to help guide the process. The following organizations collect information on nursing homes in California and elsewhere, from ownership data to quality rankings to citations and deficiencies.

The groups manage their own websites and, in some cases, rely on different sources. Data across the sites sometimes conflict.


THE SACRAMENTO BEE

The Bee’s database is the first to look at performance of California nursing homes across chains, as well as individually.

To determine chain ownership of individual homes, The Bee searched voluminous public databases, in many cases tracing owners through several layers of limited liability and other companies.

To determine patterns of care within nursing-home chains, The Bee used 46 measures that are among the categories routinely used by federal and private sources to rate individual nursing homes. The standards The Bee considered fell into four general categories: inspections and complaints, quality of care, staffing, and overall care ratings from the federal government and the nonprofit California HealthCare Foundation.

The resulting database shows how each nursing-home chain in California ranks in The Bee’s rating system, as well as how individual homes and chains fare in the five-tier rating systems used by the federal government and the California HealthCare Foundation.


U.S. CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services created a 5-star quality rating system to help families compare nursing homes on a variety of measures. The federal agency’s Nursing Home Compare website includes quality-of-care information, along with some ownership records, on every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.


CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH

The Department of Public Health inspects nursing homes in California on behalf of both the state and federal governments. The department makes some facility information available on its website. The department instructs consumers seeking more detailed data on individual facilities to file a Public Records Act request or visit the district office in which the specific home is located and ask to view the public file.


THE CALIFORNIA HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION

The California HealthCare Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropy “dedicated to improving quality, increasing efficiency, and lowering the costs of health care in California,” according to its website.

The foundation has created its own rating system for individual nursing homes, drawn from numerous measures reflecting clinical quality, patient experience and patient safety. Its website offers a searchable database of ratings for individual homes in California. The website also offers an overview of categories of skilled-nursing care and associated costs.


CALIFORNIA ADVOCATES FOR NURSING HOME REFORM

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform is a nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to improving the choices, care and quality of life for California’s long-term care consumers,” according to its website. The website offers an overview of care options and detailed guidance on choosing a facility. It also hosts a searchable nursing-home guide.