Objective and Subjective Measures of the Quality of Managed Care in Nursing Homes

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Abstract

Background.

The number of nursing home (NH) residents enrolled in managed care plans (HMO) will increase, and there is concern that the quality of their medical care may be compromised by cost-containment pressures. In this study, we evaluated the medical care of residents enrolled in 3 health maintenance organizations (HMO) that developed specific long-term care programs.

Objectives.

To compare the medical care received by NH residents enrolled in HMO and Fee-for-Service (FFS) plans with both objective process of care and consumer perception (subjective) measures. To describe the relationship between the objective and subjective measures.

Measures.

Number of primary care visits per month; process of medical care for 2 geriatric tracer conditions (falls, fevers); family and residents' perceptions of the adequacy of sickness episode management; and the frequency of primary provider visits.

Design.

Quasi-experimental.

Results.

HMO residents received more timely and appropriate responses to falls and fevers than did FFS residents. HMO residents also received more frequent routine visits by a primary care provider team consisting of a physician and nurse practitioner. Consumer perceptions of quality did not differ between the HMO and FFS groups. Families within both groups were significantly more positive than were residents about the frequency of visits by both physicians and nurse practitioners. Within the HMO group, both families and residents were more positive about the frequency of nurse practitioner visits than were physician visits even when the frequency of visits by the 2 providers were similar.

Conclusions.

Although the medical care received by HMO residents was better on most objective process measures than that received by FFS residents, consumer perceptions of care did not detect those differences. NH residents and families have different perceptions about the adequacy of visits by physicians and nurse practitioners, and both families and residents appear to have different expectations concerning how often they want physicians to visit as compared with nurse practitioners.

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