News 4 Investigates: Nursing home ratings updated monthly

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – If you are evaluating a nursing home or if you have a family member residing in a nursing home you may be interested in how federal regulators rate them.

Of course, whenever evaluating a nursing home facility, experts say your own observations and experiences are your best guide.  Beyond that, be sure to talk to other residents and their families and, they add, take complaints to a nursing home’s management.

Families have told News 4 that they hesitate to report problems. They fear that staff may take the complaint out on their family member.  Experts told News 4 Investigates that nursing home managers want to know about problems and families should give them an opportunity to address them.

Complaints can also be filed with the New York State Health Department which has the responsibility to follow up on them.

Complaints can also be filed by contacting the state’s Nursing Home Complaint hotline (1-888-201-4563) which can be called 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Staff are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Callers can leave voice mail during non-business hours.

The New York State Health Department also notes that nursing home staff are supposed to report incidents by submitting an online Incident Reporting Form through the Health Commerce System.

Complaints and incidents are reviewed by the Centralized Complaint Intake Unit “with appropriate action taken,” according to the state’s web site.

A first step to check a nursing home is Nursing Home Compare, the federal evaluation system that gives the country’s 15,000 nursing homes a rating from 1 to 5 stars, experts said. The ratings were developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The star rating is a quick look at a nursing home’s performance.  The information is updated monthly to reflect the latest inspection or survey.  There is a lag between an inspection, for example, and its appearance on the Nursing Home Compare web site because information is confirmed with the nursing home before it is posted.

The rating is based on three evaluations: a state health department inspection and nursing home self reporting surveys on staffing and quality measures. Here’s what the Nursing Home Compare site says to explain the rating system:

“Why is this important?
Nursing homes vary in the quality of care and services they provide to their residents. Reviewing health inspection results, staffing data, and quality measure data are three important ways to measure nursing home quality. This information gives you a ‘snap shot’ of the care individual nursing homes give.

Use the Five-Star together with other information
The Five Star Quality Rating System is not a substitute for visiting the nursing home. This system can give you important information, help you compare nursing homes by topics you consider most important, and help you think of questions to ask when you visit the nursing home. Use the Five-Star ratings together with other sources of information.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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