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CMS Announces Pilot for Staffing Data Tracking Program

November 20, 2014

A voluntary pilot program designed to collect staffing data from skilled nursing facilities will soon take effect, according to an official from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The pilot represents the first step toward full implementation of the IMPACT Act, a federal law that requires facilities to report accurate and comprehensive data on staffing patterns.

President Obama signed the law in October.

Among other uses, the data will help CMS track turnover rates among skilled nursing facility staff, including direct-care workers. High turnover has been linked to lower quality of care for residents.

To ensure higher accuracy, skilled nursing facilities will be required to submit payroll information along with staffing data.

Ensuring Accuracy

Accurate staffing data has been the subject of news and other reports in recent months.

An August New York Times article reported that many nursing homes have figured out how to “game the system” when it comes to improving their star ranking on the federal Nursing Home Compare website, in part by boosting staffing levels in advance of annual inspections.

More recently, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published an investigation which found that more than 80 percent of nursing homes self-report inflated registered nurse staffing hour statistics to Nursing Home Compare.

In the CPI investigation, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who introduced legislation to improve nursing home staffing and is also a champion of the need to improve the quality of home care jobs, was quoted as saying:

Some…families select what appears to be a high quality, well-staffed nursing home based on the self-reported data, only to learn after some avoidable complication or deterioration in their loved ones’ condition that the nursing home was understaffed.

The CMS official who announced the pilot program was speaking on a conference call as part of the agency’s Open Door Forum series, in which long-term care stakeholders are kept abreast of the latest CMS developments.

— by Matthew Ozga

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