COLUMBUS, Ohio — Frustrated with Ohio’s lack of a consumer rating system for home-care providers, a Hilliard parent is urging families to take to Angie’s List with reviews of their experiences.

“The information we get on providers is very limited,” said Lisa Ryan, whose 32-year-old son has developmental disabilities. “We desperately need something to make it easier for the consumer.”

Angie’s List is an online rating service better known for helping people find plumbers and painters. But a company representative said health listings, including local home-health providers, are among the fastest-growing categories.

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Ryan said families making important decisions about care for their loved ones need more resources to help them determine quality.

Just because a home-care agency or an independent care provider is certified to bill Medicaid or Medicare doesn’t mean the service will be high quality, Ryan said. And although Ohio maintains resident- and family-satisfaction surveys for nursing homes, there is nothing comparable for the thousands of consumers who rely on the state’s fast-growing home and community care industry.

“I had assumed that these providers were reputable,” Ryan said. “I thought, ‘Who would go into this if they didn’t have the ethics?'”

But after years of experience with sometimes-shoddy care — including an incident last month when her son was dropped off at a nighttime event and not picked up — Ryan said she believes consumers need the opportunity to weigh in.

Angie’s List might not be the long-term solution, she and others say, but it’s a start.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a parent,” said Jed Morison, superintendent of the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “There are literally hundreds and hundreds of providers. It’s hard to know who will work best with their family member.”

Medicaid rules that guarantee consumers “free choice of provider” prohibit public agencies from recommending companies or care providers, he said. Although the goal is fairness, the rule can prevent disability and elder advocates from sharing views on provider suitability.

“It’s frustrating for staff who work closely with families not to be able to offer recommendations,” Morison said. “I think that sometimes the families find it difficult to really get an objective analysis of the quality of providers.”

While many providers are excellent, he said, others come up short.

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities maintains an abuser registry and makes public its compliance reviews on certified care providers. The state Medicaid office also lists providers that have been suspended.

Such measures, while important, don’t necessarily capture the experiences of consumers, Ryan said. Disabilities department compliance reviews, for example, might take place once every two or three years.

Kerry Francis, a spokeswoman for the state disabilities department, said that Ohio is interested in the development of some type of consumer-satisfaction system. Preliminary discussions have taken place between a provider association and the state’s association of county boards, she said.

“There really are no details yet,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ryan said, she hopes to see families posting reviews to Angie’s List about the quality of care received. Angie’s List charges varying fees for membership, but consumers don’t have to be members to post reviews, the company said.

Providers also can register and create their listings, but they don’t have to be members in order for a consumer to post a review.

“If there aren’t reviews, it’s not going to do any good,” Ryan said. “As a parent, I plan on staying up on it.”

© 2015 The Columbus Dispatch
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