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CMS issues millions in infection control penalties to SNFs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has imposed more than $15 million in penalties on 3,400 skilled nursing facilities for failure to comply with infection control regulations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement of the penalties comes with a warning to SNFs to stay vigilant in monitoring their infection control programs.

“Now more than ever, nursing homes must be vigilant in adhering to federal guidelines related to infection control to prevent the spread of infection disease, including COVID-19,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We will continue to hold nursing homes accountable and work with state and local leaders to protect the vulnerable population residing in America’s nursing homes.”1

Avoid CMS penalties

ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your facility avoid costly CMS penalties with better infection control monitoring. This valuable application makes it easier for your facility to meet all CMS Requirements of Participation, and it allows you to quickly pull reports to meet the requests of surveyors. Using built-in national infection criteria, infection control administrators align facility data with reporting requirements consistently and efficiently.

Accurately track symptoms and infections

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the U.S., ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH helps you to protect against outbreaks utilizing your facility’s data. Monitor symptoms, track and report infections, oversee facility visitors and identify the sources of infections through the application. The convenient dashboard allows you to customize alerts so you are notified when your preset data points are reached.

Protect your facility

COVID-19 poses a real danger to SNF residents and staff. And never before have facilities been placed under such scrutiny. ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH provides the tools you need to protect your facility from a coronavirus outbreak. It also allows you to track, access and report the data required by CMS to reduce the risk of survey deficiencies and costly penalties.

Protect your facility from a potential outbreak – and potential financial penalties. Learn more about ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH now.

 

1. “Trump Administration Has Issued More Than $15 Million in Fines to Nursing Homes During COVID-19 Pandemic,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, August 14, 2020, https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/trump-administration-has-issued-more-15-million-fines-nursing-homes-during-covid-19-pandemic

 

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

CMS waives hospitalization requirement for SNF patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced it will waive several requirements for SNF residents impacted by COVID-19. The measures, which were announced at the end of April, are intended to help facilities adapt quickly to accommodate residents – and to help ensure residents are eligible for needed benefits – in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the waivers related to SNF patients include:

Hospitalization requirements

With the blanket waiver, patients will be eligible for CMS coverage without the usual prerequisite of three days of prior hospitalization if they have been displaced or been affected by COVID-19.

Renewal of benefits

The provision also allows residents who have exhausted their long-term care benefits to renew their SNF benefits without having to begin a new benefit period if they were prevented from completing and renewing their previous benefits due to the coronavirus crisis. To be eligible, their benefits must have been renewable under normal circumstances.

Pre-admission screening and annual reviews

With the waivers, SNFs will be able to admit patients who have not yet had their Level 1 or Level 2 admissions screenings. Instead, facilities will have up to 30 days after admitting patients to perform the required screenings.

Resident transfers

To allow facilities to create cohorts to care for residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, CMS is waiving several transfer requirements, as long as a facility has agreed to receive a resident from another facility. Cohort agreements can allow for the transfer of residents with COVID-19 to allow stricken residents to be isolated in one facility, or residents who test negative for the illness can be transferred to other facilities to protect them from a COVID-19 outbreak within their current facility.

Blanket waivers automatically go into effect, so facilities do not need to submit applications when they take advantage of the waived requirements.

With these waivers, facilities must continue to track infections and infection control measures. Find out how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your staff track all of the necessary data.

 

Source:

Director, CMS Quality Safety & Oversight Group, April 24, 2020,  memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors. https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-28-nh.pdf

 

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

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.

 

Source:

1. Director, CMS Quality Safety & Oversight Group, April 24, 2020, memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors. https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-28-nh.pdf

 

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

Is your skilled nursing facility ready to respond to a case of COVID-19?

Skilled nursing facilities across the country have been working tirelessly to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19. At the same time, facilities also should be setting protocol in place to respond to a COVID-19 infection. More than 400 skilled nursing facilities have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and those reports are escalating at dramatic rates.1 Being prepared to deal with infected residents and staff can be the difference between isolated infections and a COVID-19 outbreak that impacts residents and staff on a large scale.

Responding to a COVID-19 infection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all skilled nursing facilities have a COVID-19 response plan in place2 as part of their preparedness plans.

According to the CDC, a SNF’s COVID-19 response plan should include:

  • Processes for isolating residents who have or who are suspected of having COVID-19, including assigning staff to care only for those residents, creating a designated triage area and providing infected residents with bedrooms and bathrooms that separate them from the rest of the SNF residents
  • Transmission-Based Prevention protocol for caring for those with COVID-19 or other respiratory infections
  • Identification of spaces within the facility that can be used for COVID-19 response, including triage, isolation and Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIRs) for patients who require aerosol treatments3
  • A process for transporting residents who are infected with, or who are suspected of being infected with, COVID-19
  • Contact procedures for alerting local and state health officials to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19
  • Communication plans for alerting residents, staff and families to the infection and plan for containing the infection
  • Protocol for monitoring residents with respiratory infections
  • Plans for monitoring and applying work restrictions to infected or exposed staff
  • Processes for screening and testing all residents for signs of COVID-19 or respiratory infections

Tracking COVID-19 in your facility

Your COVID-19 response and SNF infection prevention protocol also should include keeping careful track of staff, resident and visitor data. Your facility should be known and suspected infections, as well as respiratory infections with unknown causes, steps taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses and the effects of prevention protocols.

To help track COVID-19 cases, instances of respiratory infection and infection control protocol requirements, ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH provides the tools you need.

 

Sources:

1. Khimm, S., Strickler, L. “Nursing homes overwhelmed by coronavirus: ‘It is impossible for us to stop the spread’.” NBC News. April 1, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nursing-homes-overwhelmed-coronavirus-it-impossible-us-stop-spread-n1174171
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Preparedness Checklist for Nursing Homes and Other Long-term Care Settings.” Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/novel-coronavirus-2019-Nursing-Homes-Preparedness-Checklist_3_13.pdf.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings.” Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/control-recommendations.html

 

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

Is your skilled nursing facility ready for a CMS infection control inspection?

To make sure skilled nursing facilities are doing all they can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it would be stepping up inspections.1 Additionally, inspections will focus in particular on infection control protocols. How prepared is your skilled nursing facility for an inspection?

Evaluate the likelihood of an inspection

While it is always important to be prepared for an inspection, some skilled nursing facilities are likely to face increased scrutiny due to their inspection or violation histories. Facilities likely to be evaluated include those that have or require:

  • Complaints expressing infection control concerns
  • Immediate jeopardy complaints
  • Allegations of abuse or neglect
  • Recorded infection control deficiencies at the immediate jeopardy level in the last three years
  • Histories of lower-level infection control deficiencies
  • A statutorily required recertification inspection
  • Necessary revisits to resolve previous inspection issues
  • Initial certifications

Preparing for a CMS infection control inspection

To ensure that your facility is prepared for a CMS infection control inspection, first and foremost, you should review your infection control protocol and verify that all measures are being followed by your staff. You also should be reviewing your facility’s data to ensure you are meeting government requirements.

What to check

  • Recent respiratory infections where the exact cause of the infection was not identified
  • Respiratory symptoms reported for infections that both met and did not meet McGeer criteria
  • QAPI initiatives implemented to prevent outbreaks
  • Transmission-based precautions implemented, including type and length in previous respiratory infections and their effectiveness of controlling infection spread through your facility
  • Staff and visitor infections

Help in following CMS infection control protocol

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold in the United States, skilled nursing facilities are dedicated to following infection prevention protocol – and instituting additional infection control measures. Keeping track of the data and performance control measures necessary to monitor potential infections and meet CMS guidelines can be a challenge. ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help you track infections and CMS data to protect residents and stay compliant. Find out how.

 

Source:

1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “CMS Announces Actions to Address Spread of Coronavirus.” CMS.gov Newsroom. Accessed March 30, 2020. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-announces-actions-address-spread-coronavirus

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

 

Your skilled nursing facility’s COVID-19 communication plan

The news surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak changes rapidly as new cases are detecting, new communities are affected, governments enact preventative measures and the medical community looks for treatments. Within your skilled nursing facility, timely communication with staff and residents, and residents’ families, is critical in helping to stop the spread of the disease and maintain calm. Sharing information effectively and quickly becomes even more important if a case is suspected or confirmed within your facility.

That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that skilled nursing facilities have a communication plan1 in place as part of their COVID-19 preparedness. Your plan should allow you to quickly share up-to-date information on COVID-19 prevention, as well as to rapidly inform residents, staff and families of a COVID-19 infection.

As you evaluate the effectiveness of your COVID-19 communication plan, you should consider:

  • Whether you have the infrastructure in place to quickly share important information about COVID-19 with staff, residents and their families
  • How you can respond to the CDC’s COVID-19 updates and share that information with your SNF community
  • How you can verify that staff and residents have received and understood important information regarding COVID-19
  • The evaluation of your staff’s ability to put COVID-19 safety measures into place after those measures have been communicated
  • How communication fits into your COVID-19 emergency response protocol

The CDC recommends the COVID-19 communication plan for your skilled nursing facility goes beyond simply disseminating printed materials. You want to be sure that your residents, staff and community are receiving and responding to the important information you share. Staff should undergo COVID-19 safety training, residents should be educated on the measures they can take and your facility should have an educational library your residents and staff can turn to as a resource.2

Your skilled nursing facility plays an important role in monitoring and sharing information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure you have a plan in place that will allow you to effectively share relevant COVID-19 information.

Tracking data related to the COVID-19 infection can help your facility respond to potential cases of the disease. Find out how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your facility monitor infection and infection response data.

 

Sources:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Preparedness Checklist for Nursing Homes and Other Long-term Care Settings.” Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/novel-coronavirus-2019-Nursing-Homes-Preparedness-Checklist_3_13.pdf.

2. Wilkins, D. “Coronavirus: Is your senior living facility prepared for a widespread outbreak?” McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. March 5, 2020.

 

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

CMS issues new COVID-19 reporting requirements for SNFs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has declared skilled nursing facilities “ground zero” in the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. In an attempt to monitor and control the spread of the virus within SNFs, CMS this week released new reporting requirements for COVID-19 infections.

The new infection reporting protocol are based, in part, on recommendations from the American Health Care Association and Leading Age. The two industry groups had called on skilled nursing facilities to report COVID-19 infections in a more timely manner.

Under the guidelines, SNFs must:

• Inform residents, as well as their families and representatives, of any positive COVID-19 cases within the facility within 12 hours

• Inform residents, as well as their families and representatives, of any instances of 3 or more respiratory illnesses within the facility within 72 hours

• Update residents, as well as their families and representatives, of COVID-19 infections and mitigation efforts weekly

• Report cases of COVID-19 directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

• Continue to meet requirements to report infectious diseases to state and local health departments

• Fully cooperate with all CDC efforts to monitor the spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 reporting tools

To assist skilled nursing facilities with meeting the new requirements, the CDC will provide SNFs with a reporting tool. According to CMS, the reporting tool will be an important component in collecting national COVID-19 data to monitor the spread of the virus and coordinate infection response. Any COVID-19 data collected through the new reporting program will be made publicly available by CMS.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19. [This] action supports CMS’ longstanding commitment to providing transparent and timely information to residents and their families,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Nursing home reporting to the CDC is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America.”

Improving your infection control program

Skilled nursing facilities can get additional help in monitoring COVID-19 symptoms and control efforts with ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH. This helpful application allows SNFs to enhance their infection control programs while adhering to all CMS requirements. Learn more about how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your facility monitor COVID-19 prevention efforts.

 

Source: “Trump Administration Announces New Nursing Homes COVID-19 Transparency Effort.” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. April 19, 2020. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/trump-administration-announces-new-nursing-homes-covid-19-transparency-effort

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

What your skilled nursing facility should be doing to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 presents a scary proposition for skilled nursing facilities. It spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate among the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and people with pre-existing health conditions. For those reasons, most skilled nursing facilities have enacted dramatic measures to distance residents and prevent the disease from being introduced to the facility.

Common steps being taken by SNFs for infection prevention to combat the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Temporarily prohibiting visitors to the facility
  • Canceling communal meals and activities
  • Enacting social distancing by making sure residents are at least six feet apart at all times
  • Frequently cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas
  • Placing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in all rooms and keeping handwashing stations well stocked
  • Closely monitoring residents and staff for signs of infection
  • Creating a clear plan for the treatment of residents who are suspected of having COVID-19 or who test positive for the virus

What additional measures can SNFs take to stop the spread of COVID-19?

While many of these measures have been drastic, SNF administration and staff may be wondering what else they could do to prevent COVID-19 from reaching and spreading through their facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proposed that SNFs take the following immediate action to help fight COVID-19:

  • Keeping volunteers and non-essential personnel from entering the facility
  • Screening staff for fever and other signs of COVID-19 at the start of every shift
  • Enacting a communication plan to keep residents, staff and families up to date on all COVID-19 prevention measures and concerns
  • Increasing the use of personal protective equipment by staff
  • Ensuring that sick-leave policies are non-punitive and flexible so staff feel like they can stay home when sick
  • Preparing an emergency plan for staff shortages in case of a community outbreak
  • Reviewing data from past outbreaks to identify measures that were effective in stopping the spread of disease within the facility

COVID-19’s infection and mortality rates are rightly causing alarm for skilled nursing facilities. Following CDC’s recommendations for combatting the pandemic can help keep residents and staff safe from the virus. Facilities also should be carefully tracking data to monitor for signs of the disease and to document measures to follow infection control protocol. Find out how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your facility monitor COVID-19 and infection control measures.

 

Source:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Preparing for COVID-19: Long-term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes.” Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/prevent-spread-in-long-term-care-facilities.html

 

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

Tracking COVID-19 symptoms in your skilled nursing facility

The sooner you identify a case of COVID-19 in your skilled nursing facility, the sooner you can act to stop the spread of the disease among staff and residents.

Tracking the right data in your skilled nursing facility can help you identify the signs of a COVID-19 infection early. It also can help you take the best steps to prevent the spread of the disease. Find out which data you should be tracking and which data you should be reviewing to identify possible risks in your facility.

Data to track amid the COVID-19 pandemic

In the case that COVID-19 does strike your nursing home, data could provide insight into who could have been infected, how the disease spread and how effective the preventative measures you took to stop the disease were in preventing an outbreak.

Information you should be recording and reviewing as part of your COVID-19 SNF infection prevention efforts include:

  • Recent upper respiratory infections that didn’t have a clear or diagnosed cause
  • Respiratory symptoms reported for infections that both met and did not meet McGeer criteria
  • Infections reported by staff or visitors to your skilled nursing facility
  • Measures you have been taking to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in your facility
  • Specific infection control measures taken when a resident, staff or visitor shows symptoms that could turn out to be a case of COVID-19

Reviewing data to help stop the spread of COVID-19

In addition to tracking new data, reviewing your existing data can help you identify and address COVID-19 in your skilled nursing facility. Knowing any patients who recently showed signs of respiratory infection can help you identify residents or staff who may have been affected by disease but only experienced minor symptoms. If you have a positive COVID-19 test in your facility, understanding everyone who was affected can help you discover how the disease has spread.

Your facility also can benefit from taking a look at data from previous infection outbreaks. What was the last outbreak that struck your facility? Reviewing how many patients were affected, how the disease spread and the effectiveness of the measures you took to stop the outbreak can give you insight into how COVID-19 could spread in your facility and the steps you could take to prevent it.

Tracking data to aid with SNF infection prevention

Data is a valuable tool when dealing with infection control in your skilled nursing facility. It can help you identify an outbreak early, and it can provide insight on the effectiveness of your infection control program. Find out how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your nursing staff manage infection control data to keep your residence safe. Talk to an expert now!

 

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