CMS places SNF inspection scores on temporary hold

To help protect skilled nursing facilities against COVID-19 outbreaks, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began focusing inspections on infection control programs in March. With that change, many facilities are not being examined according to the usual schedule, potentially skewing the public quality rating system to negatively impact the ratings of facilities that are being inspected.1 To maintain the integrity of the system, CMS announced April 24 that it would place a temporary hold on the domain of the Nursing Home Five-Star Quality Rating System.

Through the duration of the hold:
• All SNF star ratings will remain consistent for the duration of the hold
• Results of inspections performed after March 4 will appear through a special link on the CMS Nursing Home Compare page
• CMS inspections will continue to focus on infection control programs and immediate threats to patient safety, based on complaints.

The hold will affect all inspections performed after March 4. Results of inspections performed after that date were posted to the public on April 29. Inspection results will continue to be posted as the data is able to be finalized and uploaded to the site. CMS did not reveal an end date for the hold of the rating system.

The announcement regarding the Five-Star Quality Rating System came along with other announcements about CMS requirements for skilled nursing facilities, including staffing data and the Minimum Data Set.

While ratings for skilled nursing facilities will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, it is important for nursing facilities to diligently maintain their infection control programs to protect residents and staff, and to be prepared if an inspection does occur. ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your facility track the data it needs to monitor its infection control program. Find out how.



1. Director, CMS Quality Safety & Oversight Group, April 24, 2020, memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Four best practices for nurturing a collaborative nursing culture

True collaboration – where joint communication and decision making occur among all the members of a healthcare team – is a cornerstone of quality care. Studies have shown healthcare teams who do not trust, respect and collaborate with one another are more likely to make a mistake that could negatively impact the safety of patients.

Fortunately, you can apply four best practices to nurture a collaborative nursing culture.

1. Foster open communication

Regular and routine communication and information sharing is essential to building transparency, collaboration and resident-centered care. Adopt methods and tools that enable frequent, clear communication, such as a handoff template, briefs, huddles, debriefs and mobile alerts.

2. Create a safe space for information sharing

Nursing teams deserve an environment that is respectful, nonpunitive and reinforces the value of each member’s input. Develop communication guidelines that promote an open exchange of information through listening and constructive responses while discouraging any ridicule of questions or opinions.

3. Encourage shared responsibility

Nurses need to understand their individual roles and responsibilities within the team. Clearly outline who will have leadership roles and how decision making will be shared across the team, so they can collaboratively achieve the team’s goals.

4. Promote constructive conflict resolution

Different perspectives, backgrounds and areas of expertise can inevitably lead to differences of opinion and conflict within a nursing team. Failure to properly address conflicts often leads to more issues and negatively affects team morale. Establish a conflict resolution process that educates team members on how to acknowledge, manage and resolve any conflict in a positive and constructive manner.

There’s no doubt that a collaborative nursing culture leads to more efficient and effective resident care. In skilled nursing facilities, breakdowns in communication can lead to medication errors, resident injuries and other poor outcomes. When healthcare teams commit to the common goal of elevating resident care by bringing together each member’s unique knowledge and skills, everyone wins.

Coming soon! In our next installment of this series, you’ll discover three tips for improving nurse engagement in your skilled nursing facility.

See how SNFs across the U.S. help their clinical teams collaborate to elevate resident care with ABILITY CAREWATCH.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and CAREWATCH® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

3 statistics your patients wish you knew about patient payments

Your patients are always your first priority. That said, to best serve them, you need to maintain a financially successful organization. And, with increasing patient responsibility across healthcare sectors, this means that you need to capture more patient payments – without compromising the patient experience.

How can you do that? Let’s take a look at three statistics about healthcare payment systems and financial responsibility that can help you capture more revenue while improving patient satisfaction.

80% of patients would consider switching providers for more convenience1

Historically, patients didn’t do much “shopping around” for healthcare providers, but that’s changed a great deal over the past few years. With increasing healthcare costs and other factors, today’s patients are weighing their options.

When most people consider “convenience factors,” they think about proximity to the patient’s home or workplace, hours of operation, and other aspects that improve or reduce convenience for the patient. But these aren’t the only convenience factors in a patient’s life. Offering convenient patient payment options can help more than you might think.

61% of patients would consider switching providers for a better payment experience2

Nearly two-thirds of patients would consider changing healthcare providers to achieve a better payment experience. Consider what this could mean for your organization if you offered flexible, convenient options – such as automated payment plans and 24/7 online payments. Breaking down patient payment barriers may help you improve patient satisfaction and capture more revenue at the same time.

70% of patients are confused by their medical bills3

Finally, a significant majority of patients find their medical bills confusing. When patients don’t understand their bills, they’re more likely to set them aside, unpaid. On the other hand, when patients have a clear understanding of their patient statements they are more likely to pay what they owe.

And, when you offer online patient statements with email notifications, you can make it even easier for them to pay with direct links to your patient payment platform.

Want to discover how ABILITY SECUREPAY and ABILITY Patient Statements can help you provide the convenience and flexibility your patients want? Request a demo today.



1. “Effortless care experiences,” NRC Health, accessed April 21, 2020,
2. “3 ways to empower patients and improve collections, Physician’s Practice, accessed April 21, 2020,
3. “14% of consumers struggle with patient financial responsibility,” Patient Responsibility News, accessed April 21, 2020,


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SECUREPAY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How to tell nurses they can’t have the day off

Nurses work hard and they deserve a break. That’s why it can be especially troubling when you have to deny them a weekend or holiday off. Or when you can’t accommodate a last-minute shift change request.

Your inability to do so is understandable. You’ve spent hours – or days – creating the perfect nurse schedule, and any change is hard to accommodate. You must prevent overtime, ensure fairness across your staff, and make sure you have the right people with the right experience and skills assigned to every shift. Those types of decisions are hard to make quickly, and it often is just easier to deny any changes.

The problem with saying “No”

Each time you deny a time-off request, you’re taking a chance that nurses call off sick anyway. If you say “No” enough, some nurses may generally stop asking for shift changes and time off, and instead, go straight to calling off sick. Ultimately, you are left short-staffed.

Fortunately, most nurses won’t do either, because they are committed to their jobs, their employer and their patients, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it. Regularly denying nurses more work/life balance and control over their schedule leads to burnout and lowered morale, both of which are leading causes of turnover.

Set ground rules to curb the problem

Establishing policies and putting a structure in place will limit the amount of inappropriate time-off requests you receive, while also enabling you to plan and schedule more effectively.

For example, clearly explain to staff:
How to submit a time-off request or shift change. Do you want them to speak to you in person? Send an email? Text?
How far in advance employees should request time off. Many nurse managers are completing their schedules two, three and four weeks in advance sometimes. Let employees know how much notice they need to give you for planned vacations, events and appointments.
How often staff can request time off or swap shifts. Think about your circumstances and what you could reasonably accommodate.
What constitutes emergencies for last-minute call offs. Nursing is one of those professions that is always on call. However, there are situations, like personal illness or injury, or the illness, injury or death of a loved one that warrant time off. Absences to attend a party, concert or some other event aren’t legitimate emergencies. Make it clear what you consider an actual emergency.

What to say when you can’t say “Yes”

Unfortunately, no matter how much you want to accommodate all your nurses’ time-off needs, sometimes you just won’t be able to do so. Follow these tips to take the sting out of your “No.”

Be direct, honest – and respectful. How you say “No” is critically important, so be direct when you deny the request, but do it without being curt, rude or hostile. For example, “I reviewed the schedule, and I can’t give you tomorrow off.”
Offer a quick reason, but don’t blame anyone. Explaining the situation often makes your decision easier to stomach. For example, “The floor is full, and without you, we will be short staffed.” Avoid the urge to point fingers at another nurse for this or that, as that just breeds resentment.
Let them respond. Give them a chance to express their disappointment, but don’t let it turn into an argument. If the discussion becomes heated, you can say, “Let’s take a break and discuss the policies regarding time-off requests tomorrow.”
Empathize with them. Having a request turned down feels awful, especially when you are a hard worker. Acknowledge that and explain you will do everything in your power to ensure you can meet their next request.
Show your gratitude. If they accept your denial graciously, let them know how much you appreciate it. Even if they show some frustration, tell them you appreciate the hard work they do every day.

Turn your “No” into a “Yes” with help from ABILITY

Outdated scheduling processes could be making it impossible for you to grant more time-off requests, especially those urgent last-minute ones.

With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you gain complete control over nurse scheduling and can more easily manage changes.
• See at a glance who is available to cover a shift – keeping overtime, seniority, last called off or credential expirations in mind.
• Empower staff to easily make PTO requests, volunteer for open shifts or swap shifts as needed.
• Fill open shifts caused by sick calls and no-shows in minutes – without making one call.

You won’t be able to satisfy every request, but you can make your scheduling process more efficient so you can say “Yes” more often. Learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc

Empower your nurses to focus on resident-centered care

Nurses are the frontline of resident care – they spend more time at the bedsides of those in their care than most other healthcare team members. No one knows better than a skilled nursing professional that the best way to achieve better outcomes is to maximize direct contact with each resident. With a focus on individual needs and preferences, nurses can improve quality of care and life for their residents.

Staff nurses aspire to provide the best care possible to their residents, but are often frustrated by a lack of time, resources and autonomy.

Here are three ways your healthcare facility can help your nursing team to be more productive and elevate resident care.

1. Ensure adequate staffing

Making sure that your facility is staffed appropriately is a crucial element to providing high-quality care. Not only does inadequate staffing adversely affect your star ratings, it can overwhelm your nursing staff and result in unsafe care. With optimum staffing levels, your nurses are empowered to provide excellent resident care.

2. Equip nurses with the right tools

Frontline nurses need easy-to-use and readily accessible tools and resources to boost their autonomy and confidence in delivering evidence-based care. Make sure they have:

• Standardized checklists for assessments
• Actionable data to prioritize care
• Access to resources that expand their knowledge base
• User-friendly technology that promotes regulatory compliance

3. Simplify workflows

In today’s healthcare environment, it’s all too common for nurses to feel pressure to increase productivity and report a high administrative workload. Creating more efficient workflows is a frequently overlooked way to give nurses more time to focus on resident care.

Examine current workflows and look for “time-eaters.” One of the easiest ways to improve nursing efficiency is to reduce manual processes. Look for user-friendly technologies and applications that help nurses streamline their workflows and make more efficient use of their time.

Don’t miss the next blog article in this series to learn best practices for nurturing collaborative nursing!

Have you heard how skilled nursing facilities are simplifying quality management? Check out ABILITY CAREWATCH, the easy-to-use application that’s truly elevating resident care.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and CAREWATCH® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

3 proven ways to show nurses appreciation

Being a nurse is a hard, often thankless job – and with the World Health Organization (WHO) designating 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife – we want to do our part to help you show your nurses how much you appreciate them.

How are you showing your appreciation?

Ask 10 nurse managers the No. 1 way they show their employees appreciation, and you will probably get 10 different answers.

Managers often believe they’re doing enough simply by saying “Thank you.” Others buy food and treats for their teams or send them gifts. Some hospitals have elaborate rewards and point systems.

All those things can work to some degree. However, what most nurses want – and need – to feel truly valued has much more to do with the culture of your workplace and your effectiveness as a leader.

If you really want to show your appreciation, start here:

Create more work/life balance

Nursing is a challenging, emotionally draining job, and nurses need time to get away from it all and refresh.

Master your staffing process so that you can avoid erratic schedules and overtime. Plan carefully so all your nurses can take vacations. Do your best to accommodate them when they request days off.

A nurse scheduling application can be a game changer in this regard, because it will grant you and your team more visibility and enable quicker and easier shift management.

Grant nurses more control and autonomy

Studies have shown that a lack of control at work is a significant cause of stress. Nurses are carrying so much stress anyway, and on top of that, so much of their time at work is unpredictable. They can’t control how many patients come in or the severity of their illnesses or injuries. However, to take care of patients, they must follow policies and processes to a T.

Offering them more control when possible can be a mental and emotional booster, and a clear-cut area where you can do that involves the schedule.

Many organizations are offering self-scheduling for nurses. However, even if you aren’t ready to commit to that route, you can enable them to volunteer for shifts and swap shifts as needed.

Offer real-time feedback

For praise or constructive feedback to be meaningful, it must happen in the moment, not days, weeks or months later.

When you see someone struggling or you catch a mistake, offer guidance immediately. Few things are worse than finding out months down the road, like at the annual evaluation, that your performance was lacking all along. Help them improve by offering support and guidance when they need it.

On the flip side, when you catch nurses doing something great, tell them right then and there. And enable your nurses to commend one another. In-the-moment and peer-to-peer recognition is more impactful and motivates nurses to keep up the good work.

One tool, three ways to show your appreciation

ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler is a cloud-based application that streamlines nurse staffing and supports a stronger workplace culture.
1. Manage and update your schedule from your phone, to ensure shifts are always covered – and nurses receive much-deserved time off.
2. Empower nurses to request time off, volunteer for open shifts and swap shifts with one another.
3. Use the Shout Outs feature to recognize employees in real time.

To see it in action, request a demo of ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler now.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How to support your nursing team to elevate resident care

As quality of care takes the forefront of how skilled nursing facilities are evaluated and reimbursed, nurses increasingly face more complex challenges. They are caring for higher acuity residents, dealing with heavier workloads and trying to keep up with the latest healthcare regulations and practices.

Nurses are key to improving quality of care and outcomes. They can contribute valuable insights into how to best manage the care of your most vulnerable residents. One of the most impactful ways to elevate resident care is to support the professional growth of your nursing team.

How professional development impacts quality and retention

Professional development opportunities enable nurses to grow in their practice and enhance their ability to provide safe and effective care. Healthcare organizations that support and invest in the professional growth of their nurses will not only enhance resident outcomes, but also boost job satisfaction and improve retention rates.

Even with limited resources, your organization can take a variety of approaches to improve staff competencies, promote professional growth and help nurses stay at the top of their game.

  • Establish a career ladder program
    This will give your nurses a roadmap for career advancement and incentivize professional development.
  • Provide resources for continuing education (CE) courses
    Encouraging your nurses to stay updated on evidence-based practices and the latest clinical developments will promote higher quality care.
  • Offer in-facility competency development
    Staff in-services, “lunch and learn” sessions, preceptor workshops and real-time coaching are all convenient and effective ways to advance skills and knowledge.
  • Consider an on-site LPN to RN program
    By having participants in the program commit to a specific length of employment with your facility, you can proactively promote nurse retention while advancing professional growth.
  • Provide tuition reimbursement
    Financially supporting the educational advancement of your nurses not only elevates resident care, it also lets your nurses know you value them, encourages them to stay and attracts new employees.

Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series where we’ll share strategies for empowering your nurses!

Find out how your facility can drive better care and outcomes by watching this short video.


ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Woman paying with credit card

Rising patient financial responsibility and your revenue cycle management

Until just a few years ago, patient payments were not necessarily the highest priority for healthcare organizations attempting to capture more revenue. Today, though, patient financial responsibility has risen enough that patients are now significant payers. And, if you don’t want to leave money on the table, you need to prioritize patient payments.

With the prevalence of high-deductible health plans, gaps in Medicare and Medicaid coverage and other factors, patients’ out-of-pocket expenses are significantly higher than in previous years. As a result, patients may actually be less likely to pay without some encouragement or assistance.

So, how can you navigate this new landscape with its emphasis on patient payments? Here are a few strategies to help.

Patient payment processes impact the overall experience

According to recent data, half of patients surveyed said they did not pay their bills after a poor billing experience.1 When patients don’t understand what they owe, or if they have a bad experience during the payment process, they are more likely to give up on paying their bill than put themselves through more work and headaches.

At the same time, if you make it simple and convenient for patients to pay, they’re more likely to fulfill their end of the bargain. Presenting patients with easy-to-understand patient statements that show them what they’re paying for can be very effective in helping patients pay what they owe. And, when you make that process even easier – with 24/7 access to online payment options, electronic patient statements and direct links to your payment portal – you can capture even more patient payments without taking up precious billing staff time.

Enhance billing efficiency with a single platform for all payment options

As patient financial responsibility has risen, billers have had to spend more and more time chasing payments and reducing patient bad debt. This is where a centralized approach to patient payment services can help enhance your business office efficiency and improve the patient payment experience at the same time.

Healthcare organizations spend a significant amount of time and resources sending patient statements and following up on outside balances. With automated patient payment processes and a single platform for all your patient payments, you can save time and energy.

Just because patients have a larger financial responsibility doesn’t mean that you have to spend more time chasing their payments or devote a lot of labor to reducing patient bad debt. Instead, centralize and automate your patient payments, so you can chase less and receive more.

For more information on an end-to-end patient payment platform with enhanced patient statement services, schedule a conversation with an ABILITY patient payments expert today.



1. ”How Patient Experience in Billing Offices Impacts Patient Statements,” Sarah Heath, Patient Engagement HIT, Accessed April 4, 2020.

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Mobile payment options and statements

3 patient statement strategies that help you get paid

Capturing patient payments presents a significant challenge across healthcare markets. How can you collect more revenue without spending precious billing staff time chasing patient payments?

When it comes to paying their bills, your patients and their loved ones expect a certain level of convenience and flexibility. Other industries give them options, like online bill pay, automated payments, and the capability to use their preferred form of payment (e.g., debit cards, credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.).

You can do the same! With a few simple strategies around your patient statements, you might be surprised how much more cash flow you can achieve.

Integrate your patient statements and patient payments

According to a recent study, 61% of healthcare consumers say they would switch providers for a better patient payment experience.1   You can give them that experience, and collect more payments, when you integrate your patient statements and patient payments services.

Think of how much more likely patients will be to pay their bills when they can receive email statements and click a link directly to your patient payment platform. Plus, you can enhance billing efficiency with a single source for all your patient statements and payments.

Help patients understand what they owe

Take a look at a traditional patient statement. You may understand what most or all of the language, codes, and charges mean, but your patients probably don’t. And, when patients don’t understand their statements, they may be less likely to pay.

You can solve this issue with updated, patient-friendly statements that help your patients and their loved ones easily understand what they owe and how to pay.

Outsource print-and-mail patient statement services

Whether or not you offer electronic statements, you will likely have patients who still prefer to receive print statements. While you can perform all your print-and-mail statement services in house, outsourcing can free up billing staff time and save money on mailing resources.

In addition to potentially saving on the cost of physical resources, like stamps, envelopes, and printing, outsourcing these services gives your billers back precious time to perform tasks with a higher return on investment.

Are you ready to see how ABILITY SECUREPAY and ABILITY Patient Statements can help you get paid faster and reduce patient bad debt? Request a demo today!



1. “3 ways to empower patients and improve collections,” Physician’s Practice, accessed April 7, 2020, from

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SECUREPAY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How Telehealth Services Can Be Crucial to Your Revenue Cycle Management Strategy

We’ve been hearing it for weeks: Stay at home, social distance, avoid close contact with others, all in an effort to curb a global pandemic. The rules are a bit different for healthcare providers.

In addition to pandemic-related illness, people will continue to require medical care for a variety of reasons. As a provider, you’re challenged to protect your staff and your patients and still provide quality care.

Enter telehealth services.

With telehealth services, patients receive care (or a broad range of other services) from their providers without traveling to a healthcare facility. Even before the emergence of COVID-19, these services were gaining popularity from a convenience standpoint. In our current state, they have become an essential part of a provider’s revenue cycle management strategy.

Supporting your revenue cycle with empty waiting rooms

To help providers continue to care for their patients, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has made allowances and broadened access for telehealth services.

  • Under the 1135 waiver, patient eligibility for telehealth services will no longer be limited by location
  • The originating site requirement is eliminated
  • Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other limited license practitioners can provide services

Telehealth makes it possible for providers to operate and collect revenue without face-to-face office visits. Even HIPAA enforcement has been relaxed and penalties waived for providers operating in good faith.

Getting started with telehealth

Regulatory changes aside, you may wonder how to begin offering telehealth services through your practice. Questions about which platform to use, how to collect patient copays and how to capture the correct insurance ID (or MBI for Medicare beneficiaries) can seem overwhelming without the appropriate tools.

Once you decide which platforms to use, you’ll need to communicate this new option to your patients and ensure that your staff is knowledgeable on how to operate them.

To support an efficient workflow for your staff, ABILITY Network offers powerful applications for eligibility verification (including tools that return patient MBIs), Medicare claims management and patient payment collection, to keep your revenue cycle moving.

For the foreseeable future, telehealth services will be essential to keep your practice moving forward. Partnering with a single RCM provider like ABILITY can help simplify the journey.

To learn more about telehealth services, don’t miss this on-demand webinar presented by medical practice management expert Kem Tolliver.