LEE -- A pair of local, long-standing visiting nurse associations are among the nation's top home care agencies for the second year in a row, according to a national research group.

Porchlight VNA/ Home Care of Lee, formerly named the Lee Regional VNA and Berkshire Home Care, has been awarded HomeCare Elite status for 2012 by the National Research Corp.

The independent reviewer cited Porchlight as one of the top 500 home care organizations, just as it did in 2011.

"It's a tribute to our staff state," said Porchlight President and CEO, Holly Chaffee. "Their compassion, dedication and [commitment] to our patients stands out."

Founded in 1912 as the Lee VNA and renamed Porchlight this spring, the home health provider has a total of 200 health care and office em ployees serving nearly 2,800 patients in 35 communities, including all 32 Berkshire cities and towns.

National Re search has again ranked Berkshire VNA among the HomeCare Elite's top 25 percent of more than 10,000 home health providers, according to the VNA's administrative director Pat Eddy.

"Having achieved the honor two years in a row doesn't happen that often," Eddy noted. "This demonstrates the dedication to quality care of our staff."

Berkshire VNA also covers all of Berkshire County with a staff of 95 that has made 47,000 home visits this year and cares for 350-400 patients at any one time.

Berkshire VNA is part of Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center.

National Research Corp. uses four criteria for it's yearly review of Medicare-certified agencies: Patient satisfaction, patient outcomes, quality of care and profitability. The reviewer's HomeCare Elite identifies the top 25 percent and further highlights the top 100 and 500 agencies overall, but doesn't publicly announce specific rankings for the providers it assesses.

"The 2012 HomeCare Elite winners demonstrate a commitment to providing patient-centered care and serving as leaders in the home health community," Susan L. Hen dricks, president and COO for Nat ional Research. stated in a press release.

Berkshire VNA and Porch light say their ultimate goal is keeping their clients at home in an effort to avoid further hospitalization or a long-term care nursing facility.

"The patients have better outcomes and can be more independent because of our care," Eddy said.

Chaffee added, "If we have better outcomes, insurance companies will want to use [Porchlight]."

The local VNAs also cite how the HomeCare Elite award raises the bar for their respective agencies. Berkshire VNA has got involved in the Medicare-funded Com munity Care Transition Pro gram in an effort to improve the hospital-to-home transition.

"We're exploring ways for people to go home and stay hone," Eddy said.

Porchlight officials are looking to diversify services and expand its home care nurse practitioner program in the new year.