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Get a second opinion about nursing homes from Yelp

Created date

March 2nd, 2018
Graphic of thought bubbles.

Graphic of thought bubbles.

Going to a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care is a decision not to be taken lightly. Since 2009, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has helped people make that choice by offering the Nursing Home Compare website. 

For Nursing Home Compare, CMS uses a star-based system (between one and five stars) to rate short- and long-term care facilities in mostly objective terms of quality. The number of stars is determined by several factors, including staffing, inspection results, treatment of residents, and any enforcement actions that have been taken. To obtain the necessary data, CMS evaluates claims, health inspection information, and a national database called the Minimum Data Set (MDS), which reports quality indicators.

Nursing Home Compare’s star system can provide you with a wealth of objective information about facilities. But most people would also like to have subjective information about what it’s like on a day-to-day basis from residents and their families. The results of a new study show that today’s seniors now may be able to get that information more easily.

Subjective reviews

Enter Yelp. This website was founded in 2004 for people to provide reviews of practically any type of business or service provider. A star system is also used, and increasingly, people are reporting on nursing homes—aspects such as staff treatment of residents, the physical settings, and actual care costs.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) Leonard Davis School of Gerontology studied the reviews from Yelp and found that people tended to rate nursing homes significantly lower than Nursing Home Compare. In fact, their data showed that Yelp users rated nursing homes differently in up to 75% of instances.

The authors of the study stress that consumers should consider both subjective and objective information when evaluating a potential nursing home, and not rely on just one source. For example, people might provide fake reviews on websites, and some Nursing Home Compare scores are based on information provided by the facilities themselves.