The federal government last week advised nursing homes that a variety of COVID-related freezes on updates to the public Nursing Home Compare database will end soon after the start of the new year.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on January 27 will update quality and health inspection metrics on the consumer-facing resource, the agency indicated in a December memo to providers.
“This action will not only inform residents and families of the current status of residents in nursing homes, but will also incentivize nursing homes to improve performance,” CMS official David Wright wrote in the memo. “As we progress, CMS will analyze the quality measures for any significant changes, and take any actions needed to improve and protect resident health and safety.”
In response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, CMS suspended most inspections of nursing homes, focusing primarily on infection control violations and specific emergency surveys.
Providers also received a reprieve on submitting a host of data about their operations during the early days of the pandemic, but CMS has already begun rolling back those flexibilities: The agency in June ended a waiver that temporarily suspended requirements around staffing data, which CMS began updating again in October.
Though CMS acknowledged that the ongoing — and, frankly, worsening — COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes has made the resumption of normal survey work difficult, the agency will err on the side of transparency; the results of the targeted infection control inspections will also be used to update the public health inspection ratings.
“CMS has always strived to provide updated information about nursing homes’ compliance to consumers, families, and residents,” Wright wrote. “Also, we believe it is important for stakeholders to be aware of nursing homes’ performance on the focused infection control inspections.”
The moves will result in automatic updates to the Special Focus Facilities list, the federal government’s ranking of the nursing homes in need of most improvement, as well as the related group of candidates for under consideration for inclusion on the SFF list.
CMS will also resume handing out warning icons to facilities with recent reports of abuse.
The resumption of routine updates comes shortly after CMS formally retired the old Nursing Home Compare website on December 1, in favor of is new unified “Care Compare” portal.