As a follow up to my post this past Friday, some additional political pressure aimed at assessing and improving safety and quality of care in America’s nursing homes has come in the form of a letter from Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner. In that letter, dated April 2, the senators reference the now much discussed OIG report – Adverse Events in Skilled Nursing Facilities: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries – and challenge the CMS Administrator to reconcile the reported performance weaknesses with the current certification and survey process for nursing homes.
They went on to request an understanding of what steps CMS is taking to address the identified weaknesses in the survey and approval process. As has already been discussed, a primary means of response that CMS is counting upon is implementation of the long-awaited QAPI initiative, which will require SNFs to self-assess and critique their existing operational and clinical performance while developing a comprehensive plan to address and remedy identified performance gaps. And the resulting QAPI program of those facilities will then become subject to the state survey process.
The letter also referenced an IG report from November of 2013, Medicare Nursing Home Resident Hospitalization Rates Merit Additional Monitoring. The key finding of that report on which the senators focused was the noted variation in readmission rates across geographic areas (i.e., the associated hypothesis being that following existing best practices of better performing facilities could yield overall lower rates of readmissions – and thus lower costs to Medicare and Medicaid).
The upshot here is that SNFs now have giant targets on their backs. Provider advocates and trade associations now probably wish even more so that the QAPI regulations had not been so long delayed, as there might now be at least some political cover from being able to report work was already underway to assess these issues and challenges. Now when then QAPI regulations are released there will be heightened attention, focus and expectations of organizational compliance.
Bottom line for SNF organizations: if you haven’t started to familiarize yourself with QAPI, yesterday would be a really good time to start.