Focus groups sought for research on web-based nursing home information

If you’re looking for a good restaurant or hotel, you might check out its website or consult review sites for customer reviews and recommendations. But if you were searching for a high-quality nursing home, would you be able to do the same?

That’s the focus of a new research project proposed by Darren Liu, Dr.PH, associate professor of public health at DMU. He’s seeking individuals to participate in focus groups to explore two main questions: What are consumers’ current attitudes regarding Nursing Home Compare (NHC), the federal nursing home report card? And what information do consumers need as they select nursing home facilities?

Few life decisions are more important for people than finding a high-quality, safe nursing home for themselves or their loved ones. “This is especially the case when family members seek to select among several nursing home facilities for their loved one during a short period of time, often under time constraints and stressful circumstances,” Dr. Liu says.

NHC, a five-star rating website introduced in 2009 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, could help people in that situation. Its ratings on aspects such as staffing, health and fire safety inspections, complaints, penalties and other quality measures “offer great potential benefits to customers,” Dr. Liu says. However, he adds, many consumers aren’t aware of NHC or other online nursing home report cards. In addition, some of those sites may be out-of-date or aren’t user-friendly.

Darren Liu
Dr. Darren Liu

The results of his proposed research could help organizations such as the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Department on Aging better prepare consumers for long-term care planning and decision-making. It also could spark further collaborations to benefit Iowa’s aging population, such as equipping rural primary care providers to advise families and caregivers about long-term care and nursing home options.

Focus group participants must know how to use online resources such as rating sites for hotels, restaurants, etc., and must have helped someone find a nursing home in the last 12 months. Participants will receive $25 in each focus group session, which will be approximately two hours in length; several dates and times are available. Interested individuals should contact Dr. Liu at darren.liu@dmu.edu or 515-271-7830.