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Guidelines for Finding Quality Health Care

An Interview with Wendy Kronmiller

wendy-kronmillerAn interview with Wendy Kronmiller, Executive Director of the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality

The Office of Health Care Quality licenses and certifies health care providers (except individuals) including nursing homes, hospitals, laboratories, group homes, and in-home nursing agencies (though not non-medical care providers like Care for You).

What should people looking for care for themselves or their loved ones know about their rights?

They have a right to express any concerns they have about care, certainly to the administrative staff of a facility, because sometimes the problem may just be the result of a miscommunication, but also to our office. We have nurse surveyors who go on site and check in with people to make sure that their care is appropriate. Our fundamental mission is to protect people.

What should people consider when looking for nursing home care?

There’s a lot of information available on the Internet. In fact, if you’re looking at nursing homes there’s almost too much information available, and it’s hard to sort it out. But one of the best free sources is one provided by the federal government called Nursing Home Compare, which not only reports the results of the surveys conducted by the Office of Health Care Quality but rates all nursing homes with one to five stars. That information on the Internet is no substitute, though, for visiting the facility, talking to the staff, and getting a sense of whether you or your family member will be comfortable there. It is important to find a place that is relatively easy to visit, because economic times are tough everywhere, which in turn makes staffing difficult, and sometimes family members on the scene can help make sure that loved ones’ needs are being met. Also, see if you feel comfortable with the staff and the other residents. You can drop in unannounced and speak to whoever is in charge.

What is Maryland is doing to ensure quality in assisted living facilities?

Because assisted living facilities aren’t federally regulated and there are no federal regulations for the surveys as there are for nursing homes. But the State of Maryland does have a unit to survey each assisted living facility before it opens and although we don’t quite accomplish surveys of every unit every year we are getting closer. The results of those surveys are available on our website (http://www.dhmh.state.md.us/ohcq/). The Maryland Health Care Commission (http://mhcc.maryland.gov/) offers additional information on assisted living facilities. The most important thing is still to visit, however, because something that doesn’t look good on paper may appear different in person, and vice versa. Consumers may file complaints electronically with our office about assisted living facility, nursing home, and other health facility care through the OHCQ website or by telephone.

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