CMS Struggles to Find Participants in Home Health Data Beta Test

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is in the midst of a multi-year process to develop new data collection requirements—and the agency still needs home health care agencies in multiple areas around the country to weigh in.

CMS and the RAND Corporation last month kicked off the second phase of a program to develop and implement a standard post-acute patient assessment data plan, as required under the IMPACT Act of 2014. But they’re still behind their target number of Medicare-eligible SNF participants, officials indicated on an Open Door Forum call held Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s been challenging,” a RAND researcher said on the call. “It’s a heavy lift. A lot of the providers are feeling they don’t have the appropriate staffing.”

As of late November, CMS and RAND had recruited 172 of the 210 SNFs, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, long-term care hospitals and home health agencies they hope to include in the beta testing process. Of those groups, home health participation is third-lowest, with only 51 of a targeted 70 operators having agreed to participate.

As a result, CMS will host an additional round of training for interested parties on January 31 and February 1, both to beef up the existing numbers and account for sites that may drop out of the initial group.

“We’re looking forward to spending a fair amount of time talking to stakeholders to hear ideas for data-element standardization in post-acute care, and continue to listen to people’s concerns about the standardization,” the researcher said.

Participants will help the agency figure out the most useful and sustainable data elements that home health agencies and other long-term care providers will be required to gather once the requirement is finalized. The beta-test assessment will include a variety of variables, including residents’ cognitive and mental status, pain levels, care preferences and impairments, as well as medication reconciliation efforts and interventions.

Providers in 14 randomly-selected metropolitan areas are eligible to participate; within each location, CMS randomly chose eligible operators. Though the sites were random, officials acknowledged a buildup along the East Coast, and expressed disappointment that the Pacific Northwest was not represented.

Even if an agency doesn’t qualify for the survey, CMS officials on Tuesday’s call welcomed feedback from individuals, operators and industry groups. CMS and RAND employees will be hitting the conference circuit to further engage the industry, the researcher said, and participants in the beta round will receive surveys and attend focus groups through July 2018.

A final summary report is scheduled for the winter of 2018-2019; while CMS had previously indicated a target enforcement date of fiscal 2020, officials on the call emphasized that they are under no statutory requirement to implement the data collection requirements as of any given date and instead are focused on developing the program in a pragmatic way.

Written by Alex Spanko

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Alex Spanko
Assistant Editor at Aging Media Network
Alex covers the skilled nursing and reverse mortgage industries for Aging Media. Outside of work, he reads nonfiction, yells at Mets games from his couch, and enjoys pretty much any type of whiskey or scotch — often all at once.