Improving the information available about assisted living communities on state websites could help steer prospective residents and their families to communities that best meet their needs and minimize move-outs, say the authors of a study recently published by The Gerontologist.

“Finding what was available was burdensome,” investigators from the University of South Florida wrote after reviewing the assisted living-related websites of all 50 states and the District of Columbia between August 2018 and March 2019. Involving the federal government might help, Mitchell Roberts and colleagues wrote.

The paper is thought to be one of the first to present and evaluate the information that states publish concerning assisted living profession, they said.

According to the review, almost all of the state websites provided basic information about assisted living communities, such as number of units, addresses and telephone numbers, and about 75% of the states listed ownership information and license numbers. Just more than half offered license status and administrator names, however, and less than one-third indicated whether specific communities were for-profit or not-for-profit or had any specialty license. Information about payment type accepted also was available on less than one-third of the sites, the authors said.

Only two states’ websites had cost information, and only two states included information on the types of activities offered or whether specific communities offered hospice care, the review found.

More than two-thirds of state websites provided access to routine survey results and statements of deficiencies for communities, but less than half of them posted plans of correction, and only three states displayed whether a community had been fined, the authors said. Less than 20% of the websites provided results of life safety surveys, only four indicated whether a community had sprinklers, and only two provided information on emergency or disaster planning, according to the review.

“Overall, the usefulness of these sites is limited by the larger issue of the quality of the information available,” the authors said, adding that communities “self-report much of the information, raising concerns about validity.”

The investigators had praise for specific components of nine states’ websites but said that, overall, the state websites could be more reliable and “user-friendly.”

“One important question is whether improving the information provided to consumers would require new or revised state regulations. This may pose an obstacle, given the industry’s resistance to regulation,” they wrote. “However, with the rising number of ALCs that receive Medicaid funding, and the rising care needs of ALC residents, [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] and states have a responsibility to assess their roles in protecting ALC residents and enabling consumers to make appropriate ALC choices.”