The federal government’s top health care watchdog agency added a pair of new probes into the nation’s nursing homes to its already busy slate of long-term care investigations for the coming year.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) last week rolled out two long-term care investigations — one focused on the overall industry response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a second that will evaluate the ongoing federal effort to compile comprehensive data on coronavirus deaths and infections in nursing facilities.
The first OIG study — dubbed Meeting the Challenges Presented by COVID-19: Nursing Homes — will seek to find patterns among the facilities hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, while also analyzing the strategies that facilities used to help protect residents and staff during the pandemic.
“The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for nursing homes,” the OIG observed. “These challenges include procuring critical supplies, testing residents and staff, isolating high numbers of contagious residents, caring for those afflicted, and protecting staff on a scale never before experienced in this country.”
The second will take the form of an audit into the joint Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)-Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) program to collect infection data through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) database.
The first public release from that effort, current as of May 31, revealed nearly 32,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 95,000 infections in nursing facilities across the country — numbers that will only rise as more facilities come into compliance with the reporting regulations and testing programs reveal previously unknown positives.
“We will assess nursing homes’ reporting of CMS-required information related to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the OIG announced. “Specifically, we will determine whether the data reported by nursing homes were complete, accurate, and reliable.”
The OIG expects to release the results of both investigations sometime during the 2021 federal fiscal year, which will begin this upcoming October 1.
The two probes join three other OIG investigations into nursing homes announced last month; those reports consist of an infection-control audit, a review of CMS’s emergency COVID-19 survey processes, and an analysis of antipsychotic drug use in nursing facilities.