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Secure COVID-19 relief funds for your skilled nursing facility

Has your skilled nursing facility been diligent in tracking infection control and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, your facility could be eligible for a portion of the $2 billion in relief funds being distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Additional details on how SNFs can receive incentive payments were recently released.

Eligibility for incentives

Previously, HHS announced that SNFs would be eligible for incentive payments based on how well they were able to control rates of COVID-19 infections, as well as COVID-19 mortality rates. HHS clarified the requirements last month, stating that facilities had to show that their rates of COVID-19 infections were lower than their counties’ rates of infection. The death rate among residents within the facility who tested positive for COVID-19 also had to be below a national performance threshold for mortality within nursing homes.

Those two measures serve as a “gateway” for participation in the incentive program. Each month, facilities must meet those two criteria to receive incentive payments. Eligible facilities will have their performances evaluated, with infection rates accounting for 80 percent of the incentive payment. Calculations will be made by dividing the facility’s number of non-admission COVID-19 infections by the total number of resident-weeks reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). The mortality rate will be calculated for any facility that reported at least one non-admission COVID-19 infection.

Tracking your facility’s incentive eligibility

How can you track your facility’s COVID-19 infections accurately to help qualify for relief funds? Many SNFs are turning to ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH to carefully track resident symptoms, infections and infection control measures. The application allows you to map infections within your facility and monitor data in real time to keep infection rates lower and maximize protection for residents and staff. ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH also helps administrators pull infection information and track the documentation required by NHSN.

Another application that can help SNFs qualify for COVID-19 incentives is ABILITY CAREWATCH. Facilities using ABILITY CAREWATCH to manage quality and QAPI incentives can more easily manage their Medicare and Medicaid licensing. Current licensing is required to receive incentive payments.

Staying up to date with infection reporting

COVID-19 incentive payments can help skilled nursing facilities like yours invest more in testing and PPE to keep residents and staff safe. Learn more about how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH and ABILITY CAREWATCH can help your facility qualify for payments.

 

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

Three tips for better nurse engagement that drives quality care

Nurses are the heart of every healthcare organization. Not only are they passionate about providing expert care, they are also educators, counselors and their patients’ strongest advocates.

While caring for nursing home residents can be rewarding, it is also quite challenging. Working long demanding shifts in a high-stress environment can lead to burnout and high turnover, which can quickly result in sub-optimal care and increased medical errors. In fact, a research report from the University of California San Francisco found that the median turnover rate for nurses at long-term care facilities is 44%, which is significantly higher than the average for the healthcare industry.

Nursing engagement is key to preventing complications and reducing medical errors and mortality rates, according to research by Gallup. Engaged nurses are more responsive to their residents’ needs, more efficient and effective when providing care and less likely to experience burnout or leave their place of employment.

So how can your skilled nursing facility improve nursing engagement? Here are three tips:

1. Encourage and value nursing input

Include and involve nurses throughout improvement initiatives and allow them to be active participants in decision making that impacts the organization, patient care and their nursing role. Nurses will be more engaged if they know their input matters.

2. Ensure accessibility and responsiveness

Nurses need to know they have a committed leadership team behind them. Take steps to make leaders accessible to nurses and responsive to their needs. This builds a trusting relationship, which will drive greater levels of engagement and commitment to your organization.

3. Recognize nursing contributions

Honest and meaningful recognition of a job well done increases loyalty and engagement. Find ways to recognize the many contributions nurses make to their residents and your facility.

Whether done in a public forum or through personal, one-on-one communication, showing appreciation improves nursing morale and instills a sense of pride.

Want to learn more? Discover how ABILITY CAREWATCH can keep your nursing team on the right track with quality initiatives.

 

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

Skilled nursing facilities to receive break on reporting staffing data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended timeline requirements for reporting direct staffing data in skilled nursing facilities. The extension is part of a series of blanket waivers to CMS requirements that is designed to relieve bureaucratic stress on SNF staff as they implement infection control programs to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and protect residents.

Under CMS regulations, skilled nursing facilities are normally required to report information on direct staff – anyone responsible for the hands-on care of residents – to the CMS in a uniform format at least quarterly. The waiver applies to data pulled and submitted electronically to CMS through the Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) system.

The reporting requirements whose timelines are being waived include:

  • The work category for each direct-care staff member
  • Resident census data
  • Staff tenure and turnover
  • The number of care hours performed by each staff member per day
  • Designation of direct-care staff as facility employee, agency worker or independent contractor

Skilled nursing facilities that are overwhelmed by their response to COVID-19 infection or prevention do not have to submit paperwork to take advantaged of the relaxed timeline for reporting direct staffing data. Because the timeline extension was part of a blanket waiver by the agency, it automatically goes into effect for all skilled nursing facilities. The measure, which was announced on April 24, is good for 60 days. That timeframe could be extended based on the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extended deadlines for reporting staffing numbers do not apply to data that was due to CMS for its April reports. That data should have been collected before a public health emergency was declared on Jan. 31.

The timeline extension was part of a large series of blanket waivers issued by CMS to help skilled nursing facilities better address and cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

 

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

CMS temporarily lifts MDS reporting timeline

Skilled nursing facilities will see the timeline requirements for reporting the Minimum Data Set (MDS) to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) extended as they work to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS announced at the end of April that it would provide a blanket waiver for MDS reporting timeline so facilities could focus their energy on infection control programs that could help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The timeline waiver applies specifically to regulations listed under 42 CFR 483.20. The MDS data under that code documents and monitors residents’ conditions by assessing cognitive patters, vision, communication, mood and behavior, psychological and social health, physical function, continence, diagnoses and condition, medication, treatments and procedures, activity and discharge planning.

Some of screenings affected by the timeline waiver include:

  • Pre-admission Level 1 and Level 2 screenings, which are typically required within the first 14 days of admittance
  • Quarterly review assessments, which are required at least once every three months
  • Annual assessments, which are required at least once every 12 months
  • Assessments that mark significant changes in a patient’s condition within 14 days of those changes

Under normal circumstances, all MDS data collected during resident assessments must be encoded within seven days and reported to CMS within 14 days.

Because the waivers were a blanket order issued by CMS, skilled nursing facilities do not have to file any additional paperwork if they will be delaying the reporting of the eligible MDS. The waiver does not apply to MDS required for CMS’s April 29 reports, as that data would have been collected before a public health emergency was declared on Jan. 31. The blanket waiver is in effect for 60 days, though there is a potential to extend the waiver.

 

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® and ABILITY® 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.

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.

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.

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.