Posted by kemanuel
Skilled Nursing Facilities (“SNF”) have special audits or should I say, more robust audits. The overall gist of these federal audits of SNFs for Medicare compliance, staffing seems to be the most troubling.
We all know that in March of 2020, both The Joint Commission (TJC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pressed pause on audits, accreditation surveys, and health inspections due to COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, CMS inspections and rating updates were back in full swing as of January 2021, TJC audits and surveys are proceeding more robustly. COVID funds are especially scrutinized. Passing audits and inspections are crucial to maintaining your nursing home’s accreditation and Medicare-certified status so you can stay in business. Here’s what your HR department should know about SNF audits and ratings, and how you can help prepare for them.
Skilled Nursing Facility Audits and Quality Rating System
Together, the CMS and The Joint Commission (“TJC”) assess skilled nursing facilities’ patient care, quality of service, and provider qualifications.
The TJC survey and auditing process is designed to evaluate accredited nursing care centers once every 3 years through unannounced visits and documentation reviews that include:
- Assessments of patient safety
- Observations of services and provider or caregiver performance
- On-site or virtual staff interviews
- Physical survey of the facility
- Review of the facility’s ability to maintain updated practitioner documentation
CMS tests nursing home quality levels using a five-star quality rating system, which is updated regularly on its facility comparison site, Nursing Home Compare. The site organizes nursing homes by rating and helps consumers and their families and caregivers choose the right facility. This rating system gives each nursing home a score of between 1 and 5 based on four major factors:
- Health inspections. This portion of the rating is a combination of the results from a facility’s three most recent health inspections and three most recent investigations due to complaints. Trained inspectors pay an on-site visit to test the nursing home’s ability to meet minimum quality requirements through a specific process.
- Staffing. This rating takes into account the average hours of RN care per resident day as well as total staffing hours (RN, LPN, and CNA) based on resident needs.
- Quality measures. This rating is based on 15 different physical and clinical measures to test how well nursing homes are meeting resident needs.
- Retention. This rating measures the amount of turnover at a facility and rewards employers who retain employees for longer periods of time.
Emphasize time and attendance
In 2019, the CMS tightened their quality rating restrictions, reducing the number of days facilities could go without having an on-site nurse. This and other changes resulted in over one-third (37%) of skilled nursing facilities losing one or more stars. It’s impossible to predict what other changes may come in the future, but needless to say, time and attendance will continue to be crucial.
Your facility may not be able to recruit enough new nurses to fill your roster completely, which is why prioritizing timeliness is an important part of maintaining your rating. Make it a point to reward staff who clock in and out on time and stay on top of missed days and late arrivals.
Focus on Retention
In July 2022, CMS announced that staffing and turnover data would be used in assessing star ratings for facilities. As CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure stated, “research and experience tell us that staffing levels and staff turnover can substantially affect quality of care and health outcomes for people living in nursing homes.” My BFF DeeDee Murphy is GC for Principal Long-Term Care, which owns hundreds of SNFs. Staff turnover is a huge problem, especially since COVID, according to her.
Retention has long been a practical concern for long-term care facilities, but now the issue is increasingly under the spotlight. Focus on your retention by offering creative and enticing benefits, such as flexible scheduling and flexible benefits. Also, focus on creating career opportunities for your employees, so they stay within the facility instead of seeking career growth elsewhere.
Types of Nursing Home Audits
As an administrator, you’ll likely oversee many different types of audits. Here are some of the most common ones.
- Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI)
The Resident Assessment Instrument is a comprehensive assessment tool used to evaluate the needs of nursing home residents. RAI audits focus on the accuracy and completeness of resident assessments, including the collection and documentation of information related to the resident’s physical, mental, and psychosocial health. These audits aim to ensure that residents’ care plans are individualized and based on accurate and up-to-date assessments.
2. Falls Risk Assessment
Falls are a significant concern in nursing homes, as they can lead to serious injuries and complications. Falls risk assessment audits evaluate the nursing home’s procedures for identifying residents at risk of falling and implementing appropriate interventions to prevent falls. These audits assess whether fall risk assessments are conducted regularly, documented properly, and used to develop personalized care plans to minimize the risk of falls.
3. Medication Management Audit
Medication management audits focus on the safe and effective administration of medications to nursing home residents. These audits assess whether medication orders are properly documented, medications are stored securely, and administration procedures follow established protocols. They also evaluate medication reconciliation processes, medication error reporting, and staff training related to medication management.
4. Infection Control Audit
Infection control audits are conducted to assess the nursing home’s adherence to infection prevention and control practices. These audits evaluate hand hygiene practices, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection procedures, and compliance with isolation precautions. The goal is to identify areas where infection control pracctices can be improved to minimize the risk of healthcare-associated infections among residents and staff.
5. Staffing Audit
Staffing audits focus on evaluating the nursing home’s staffing levels and skill mix to ensure adequate staffing for resident care needs. These audits assess compliance with staffing requirements set by regulatory agencies, review staff qualifications and training, and evaluate the nursing home’s processes for monitoring and maintaining appropriate staffing levels. The goal is to ensure that there are enough qualified staff members available to provide safe and quality care to residents.
As you help prepare your facility for potential audits and inspections, it’s also a good idea to take a closer look at your system for storing and submitting documentation. Your personnel records may be up-to-date, but are they as accessible as they could be?
Many HR departments still handle paperwork manually, with paper folders and filing cabinets rather than a centralized system. And while this may still work for some, it can get tricky if you’re juggling multiple review requests or multiple facilities.
Digitizing files in a central location can help you avoid unnecessary compliance violations and simplify employee management. With access to all files at once, your facility can stay organized, prepare ahead of time, and have all the documentation you need at your fingertips, just in case.
Tips for Audit and Inspection Preparation
You want your facility to look good. My best friend is general counsel you can help your facility prepare for whatever comes their way and increase their rating at the same time.
Here are a few ways your team can improve compliance and maintain your SNF’s quality rating:
- Educate staff about documentation
All nursing home facility staff should be on the same page when it comes to documenting and reporting care. Consider holding a staff meeting to go over the main points of documentation with your attending physician or RN in charge. During this meeting, emphasize the importance of documenting elements like:
- History of reticent care and behavior towards care
- The skilled services provided
- Need for services based on resident’s condition and situation
- Resident’s response to services
- Future care plans
All documentation should be legible (although legibility is NOT a law, just a suggestion or best practices) and report care clearly and accurately. And make sure everyone knows to check state regulations for reporting and documenting COVID-19 procedures and care.
Improve Employee Satisfaction
Satisfied employees mean a better work environment and fewer complaints from residents, which can negatively impact your quality rating. Positive work cultures have been linked to better work attendance and performance, workforce retention, and mental health. It pays to ensure that your RNs, LPNs, CNAs, and other staff members are happy, healthy, and able to attend fully to their work.
Work with your staff to ensure that they’re getting what they need, whether that means flexible scheduling or healthy food on late-night shifts. Check in about their mental health and ask what resources you can provide to help them combat burnout.
Posted in Adult Care Homes, Adult Care Homes that Accept Medicaid, Alleged Overpayment, CMS, Coronavirus, Employee Issues, Federal Government, Federal Law, Health Care Providers and Services, Knicole Emanuel, Long Term Care Facilities, Medicaid, Medicaid Attorney, Medicare, Medicare and Medicaid Provider Audits, Medicare Attorney, Nursing Homes, Provider Appeals of Adverse Decisions for Medicare and Medicaid, Skilled Nursing Visits
Tags: <edication Management Audits, CMS, Employee Satisfaction, Falls Risk Assessment, Knicole Emanuel, Medicaid, Medicaid Attorney; Medicaid Lawyer; Medicare Attorney Medicare Lawyer, Medicare, Nelson Mullins, Quality rating system, Resident Assessment Instrument, Skilled Nursing Facilities, SNF Audits, Staffing Audits, The Joint Commission