A recent investigation performed by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington D.C., found that U.S. nursing home patients may not actually be receiving the high levels of care that their families believe they are receiving. In their investigation, the Center for Public Integrity ("Center") found that staffing levels, which are self-reported by nursing homes to the Nursing Home Compare website, were widely inaccurate and inflated. The Center was able to come to this conclusion by analyzing the self-reporting nursing homes' annual financial reports. These financials proved to investigators that the number of staff employed, especially skilled nursing staff, would be impossible based on the nursing homes' yearly financials.
The study found that the exaggerated staffing levels reported by nursing homes occurred for all types of positions, but were especially inflated for registered nurses, the most skilled and highest paid of nursing home staff. The center determined that 80 percent of facilities reporting their staffing numbers reported higher registered nurse staffing levels on the public website than those the Center found in its review of the cost reports. Even more alarming was that more than 25 percent of nursing homes throughout the country reported staffing levels which were double the level actually reported in the nursing homes' financials.
These discrepancies raise two very fundamental concerns regarding the self-reported staffing numbers. First, many consumers throughout the country, including Illinois, rely on the Nursing Home Compare website when choosing a nursing home for their family members. Second, and perhaps more importantly, academic studies have shown that the amount of care, especifically care provided by registered nurses, strongly correlates with residents' quality of care. Put another way, the lower number of skilled nursing staff at a nursing home, the more likely that injury and even death may occur.