CMS proposes 2% pay bump for rehab, psychiatric facilities

The Biden administration has proposed giving rehabilitation facilities a 2.2% payment increase for the 2022 federal fiscal year that starts in October.

The payment rate outlined in a proposed rule released late Thursday is slightly below the 2.4% that CMS gave rehab facilities for the 2021 federal fiscal year. CMS proposed in a separate rule a 2.3% increase for payments to inpatient psychiatric facilities as well.

Both payment rules also give updates on outlier payments, which help facilities deal with the costs of treating extremely costly beneficiaries.

For rehab facilities, CMS proposes to maintain outlier payments to 3% of the total facility payments for fiscal 2022, which begins on Oct. 1.

CMS also aims to keep the outlier payments for psychiatric facilities at 2% for 2022.

A major change for both rules is a new addition aimed to track coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations among healthcare personnel.

CMS also wants to add vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel as a measure to the quality reporting program for psychiatric facilities. The program outlines quality metrics that facilities need to meet.

“This measure would be reported using the COVID-19 modules on the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] National Healthcare Safety Network web portal,” a fact sheet on the psychiatric payment rule said.

The agency also is proposing a similar measure for rehab facilities to report any vaccinations of healthcare personnel for COVID-19.

“This proposed measure is designed to assess whether [IRFs] are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among their [healthcare personnel], reduce the risk of transmission within their facilities and help sustain the ability of [rehabilitation facilities] to continue serving their communities through the public health emergency and beyond,” a fact sheet on the rehab rule said.

In the rehab facility rule, CMS also asked for comments on how to improve health equity for all patients.

CMS is seeking comments on whether to add more measures that address patient equity in standardized patient assessment data elements, which must be collected by facilities after post-acute care.

The agency also wants comments on ways to attain health equity for psychiatric facilities as well.

“CMS is committed to addressing the significant and persistent inequities in health outcomes in the United States through improving data collection to better measure and analyze disparities across programs and policies,” the agency said in a fact sheet.

Comments for both rules are due by June 7.

Back Into the Lion’s Den: COVID-19 and Post-Acute Care

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/87596?xid=nl_popmed_2020-07-17&eun=g885344d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyUpdate_071720&utm_term=NL_Daily_Breaking_News_Active

Back Into the Lion's Den: COVID-19 and Post-Acute Care | MedPage Today

Returning COVID patients to unprepared facilities a “recipe for disaster”

As Florida becomes the new epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., the state is trying to ensure that nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities aren’t quickly overwhelmed by patients still suffering from the disease.

So far, it has dedicated 11 facilities solely to COVID patients who need post-acute or long-term care: those who can’t be isolated at their current facilities, as well as those who’ve gotten over the worst of their illness and who can be moved to free up hospital beds for the flow of new patients.

One of those facilities is Miami Medical Center, which was shuttered in October 2017 but now transformed to care for 150 such patients. In total, the network of centers will handle some 750 patients.

“We recognize that that would be something that would be very problematic, to have COVID-positive nursing home residents be put back into a facility where you couldn’t have proper isolation,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said during a press briefing last week. “[That] would be a recipe for more spread, obviously more hospitalizations and more fatalities, and so we prohibited discharging COVID-positive patients back into nursing facilities.”

Whether 750 beds will be enough to accommodate the state’s needs remains a question, but it’s a necessary first step, given testing delays that in some cases stretch more than a week. Experts have warned that patients recovering from COVID shouldn’t be transferred to a facility without being tested first.

Without dedicated facilities, hospitals in Florida in dire need of beds for new patients might have had no other choice.

Key Role for Testing

There are no national data on the percentage of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who need rehabilitation or skilled nursing care after their hospital stay.

In general, about 44% of hospitalized patients need post-acute care, according to the American Health Care Association and its affiliate, the National Center for Assisted Living, which represent the post-acute and long-term care industries.

But COVID has “drastically changed hospital discharge patterns depending on local prevalence of COVID-19 and variations in federal and state guidance,” the groups said in an email to MedPage Today. “From a clinical standpoint, patients with COVID-19 symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization may be more likely to require facility or home-based post-acute medical treatment to manage symptoms. They also may need rehabilitation services to restore lost function as they recover post-discharge from the acute-care hospital.”

The level of post-acute care these patients need runs the spectrum from long-term acute care hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation facilities to skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies.

The variation is partly due to the heterogeneity of the disease itself. While some patients recover quickly, others suffer serious consequences such as strokes, cardiac issues, and other neurological sequelae that require extensive rehabilitation. Others simply continue to have respiratory problems long after the virus has cleared. Even those who are eventually discharged home sometimes require home oxygen therapy or breathing treatments that can require the assistance of home health aides.

Yet post-acute care systems say they haven’t been overwhelmed by a flood of COVID patients. Several groups, including AHCA, NCAL, and the American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association (AMRPA) confirmed to MedPage Today that there’s actually been a downturn in post-acute care services during the pandemic.

That’s due to a decline in elective procedures, the societies said, adding that demand is starting to pick back up and that systems will need to be in place for preventing COVID spread in these facilities.

Testing will play a key role in being able to move patients as the need for post-acute care rises, specialists told MedPage Today.

“You shouldn’t move anyone until you know a status so that the nursing facility can appropriately receive them and care for them,” said Kathleen Unroe, MD, who studies long-term care issues at the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University in Indianapolis.

AHCA and NCAL said they “do not support state mandates that require nursing homes to admit hospital patients who have not been tested for COVID-19 and to admit patients who have tested positive. This approach will introduce the highly contagious virus into more nursing homes. There will be more hospitalizations for nursing home residents who need ventilator care and ultimately, a higher number of deaths.”

Earlier this week, the groups sent a letter to the National Governors Association about preventing COVID outbreaks in long-term care facilities. They pointed to a survey of their membership showing that, for the majority, it was taking 2 days or longer to get test results back; one-quarter said it took at least 5 days.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that it would send point-of-care COVID tests to “every single” nursing home in the U.S. starting next week. Initially, the tests will be given to 2,000 nursing homes, with tests eventually being shipped to all 15,400 facilities in the country.

Hospitals can conduct their own testing before releasing patients, and this has historically provided results faster than testing sites or clinical offices, especially if they have in-house services. However, demand can create delays, experts said.

Preparing for the Future

Jerry Gurwitz, MD, a geriatrician at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, says now is the time to develop post-acute care strategies for any future surges.

Gurwitz authored a commentary in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on an incident in Massachusetts early in the pandemic where a nursing home was emptied to create a COVID-only facility, only to have residents test positive after the majority had already been moved.

“We should be thinking, okay, what are the steps, what’s the alternative to emptying out nursing homes? Can we make a convention center, or part of it, amenable to post-acute care patients?” Gurwitz said. “Not just a bed to lie in, but possibly providing rehabilitation and additional services? That could all be thought through right now in a way that would be logical and lead to the best possible outcomes.”

Organizations can take the lead from centers that have lived through a surge, like those in New York City. Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Health created a dedicated rehabilitation unit for COVID-positive patients.

“We were able to bring patients out from the acute care hospital to our rehabilitation unit and continue their COVID treatment but also give them the rehabilitation they needed” — physical and occupational therapy (PT/OT) — “and the medical oversight that enhanced their recovery and got them out of the hospital quicker and in better shape,” Steven Flanagan, MD, chair of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Langone, said during an AMRPA teleconference.

Flanagan noted that even COVID patients who can be discharged home will have long-term issues, so preparing a home-based or outpatient rehabilitation program will be essential.

Jasen Gundersen, MD, chief medical officer of CareCentrix, which specializes in post-acute home care, said there’s been more concern from families and patients about going into a facility, leading to increased interest in home-based services.

“We should be doing everything we can to support patients in the home,” Gundersen said. “Many of these patients are elderly and were on a lot of medications before COVID, so we’re trying to manage those along with additive medications like breathing treatments and inhalers.”

Telemedicine has played an increasing role in home care, to protect both patients and home health aides, he added.

Long-term care societies have said that emergency waivers implemented by CMS have been critical for getting COVID patients appropriate levels of post-acute care, and they hope these remain in place as the pandemic continues.

For instance, CMS relaxed the 3-hour therapy rule and the 60% diagnostic rule, Flanagan said. Under those policies, in order to admit a patient to an acute rehabilitation unit, facilities must provide 3 hours of PT/OT every day, 5 days per week.

“Not every COVID patient could tolerate that level of care, but they still needed the benefit of rehabilitation that allowed them to get better quicker and go home faster,” he said.

Additionally, not every COVID patient fits into one of the 13 diagnostic categories that dictate who can be admitted to a rehab facility under the 60% rule, he said, so centers “could take COVID patients who didn’t fit into one of those diagnoses and treat them and get them better.”

AHCA and NCAL said further waivers or policy changes would be helpful, particularly regarding basic medical necessity requirements for coverage within each type of post-acute setting.

But chief among priorities for COVID discharges to post-acute care remains safety, the groups said.

“The solution is for hospital patients to be discharged to nursing homes that can create segregated COVID-19 units and have the vital personal protective equipment needed to keep the staff safe,” they said. “Sending hospitalized patients who are likely harboring the virus to nursing homes that do not have the appropriate units, equipment and staff to accept COVID-19 patients is a recipe for disaster.”

 

 

 

 

We Work on the Front Lines of COVID-19. Here’s What Hospitals Should Do

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/86185?xid=fb_o&trw=no&fbclid=IwAR3iM5LMZj3BxWisk3puZ2T3bOCeBaDS_xCRoTrnVaZYfj4-DZPmUfr01cw

We Work on the Front Lines of COVID-19. Here's What Hospitals ...

A game plan from ground zero.

It’s only a matter of time before all of us are directly affected by COVID-19. Proper preparation is the only way to ensure high-quality patient care and staff well-being in this challenging time. Having collectively spent time caring for patients at two different tertiary care facilities in New York on the medical floors and intensive care units, common themes are emerging that represent opportunities for hospitals in other parts of the country to start taking action before COVID-19 patients start filling up beds en masse.

Staffing

It takes a LOT of people to care for a COVID-19 onslaught; mapping out different staffing scenarios in the event you have 40 or 400 COVID patients is imperative. Staffing needs for COVID patients are higher than normal because of the patients’ complex medical needs — many require ICU level nursing and respiratory therapists — and because both clinical and non-clinical staff will inevitably become sick and need to be taken out of work. Staff should be screened for symptoms and high-risk contacts; those who are symptomatic should be proactively encouraged to stay home instead of showing up to work not feeling well and putting other care team members and patients at risk. This requires back-up staffing plans to fill in when your people become sick. Shutting down non-urgent and elective departments provides staffing redundancy to pull from when needed. All employees should be given advance notice about staffing plans so that potential role changes are clear.

Testing

Robust testing processes for both patients and your healthcare workforce are critical for success. Hospitals should be taking this time to obtain in-house rapid testing kits to avoid unnecessary patient isolation and conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) while waiting for test results.

Healthcare workers are understandably scared about contracting COVID-19 themselves and giving it to their family members. We recommend all staff members be tested for active infection so that those who are infected can be proactively quarantined.

Forward-thinking institutions should be prioritizing antibody testing for healthcare workers. While this testing is still in its infancy, it is quite likely that those with strong antibodies to COVID-19 possess some degree of immunity. Therefore, if you can identify which doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and janitorial staff have already developed an immune response to COVID-19, these staff members can take priority staffing infected units with the goal of reducing the number of new infections in healthcare workers and limiting exposure to those who have yet to contract the virus.

Communication

Each institution’s COVID-19 protocols and policies change rapidly as we learn more about the virus. How you communicate these ever-changing procedures with staff is critical. Most hospitals rely on daily email updates that are text-heavy; however, overwhelmed inboxes and less time with devices while wearing PPE limits the success of email as a sole communication channel.

Communication through graphics takes on new importance — signage noting changes in hospital geography, large pictures of donning and doffing instructions, phone numbers to call with equipment shortages, and clear instructions to staff about testing protocols, isolation, and removing patients from isolation need to be conveniently placed where staff can access information in real time without consulting their electronic devices. High-yield locations for just-in-time visual communication include outside patient rooms, nursing stations, break rooms, and elevators, so that the target information reaches its busy, hard-working audience successfully and repeatedly, minimizing confusion and augmenting clarity.

Limiting the Need to Enter the Room

Given ongoing PPE shortages, particularly around single-use gowns and N95 masks, minimizing the number of instances that staff, particularly nurses, need to enter the room is critical. This requires an adjustment from normal patient care. We recommend extension tubing to bring IV poles and medications outside the room. Tablets such as iPads can permit video calls with patients to check on non-urgent items. Centralized monitoring of oxygen saturations for all admitted patients can minimize the frequency of supplemental oxygen adjustment.

Similarly, given the increased risk of COVID-19 in diabetic patients, continuous blood glucose monitoring can minimize the need for frequent manual fingerstick measurements for patients receiving supplemental insulin.

Discharge Planning

Discharging patients to home or rehabilitation facilities presents novel challenges. A home discharge requires education, equipment, and follow-up. Education on home monitoring of vitals signs like oxygen saturation and blood pressure with instructions on critical values that should prompt patients to return to the hospital can expedite discharge and open hospital beds for other sick patients. Both patients and family members must also be educated on quarantine procedures to limit household transmission.

Many patients will have temporary oxygen requirements and we have seen home oxygen shortages in our areas. Coordinating a strategy with your outpatient clinicians, home oxygen suppliers, and insurance companies can facilitate getting patients home sooner on home oxygen and freeing up beds for sicker patients. Further, many patients are eager to go home earlier since hospital visitation limitations mean they’re sitting in bed alone away from family and the more a hospital can do to safely discharge patients home with appropriate supplies and follow-up will be beneficial to both patients and the hospital.

Hospitals must also be prepared to integrate these patients into their existing telehealth infrastructure, which has become the mainstay of ambulatory medicine in lieu of traditional office visits. For many patients, this will be a new way of accessing care. Prior to discharge, hospital staff should ensure patients have downloaded the necessary apps with login information and feel comfortable they will be able to follow up with their physician using technology following discharge.

There is a huge opportunity for hospitals that have not been caring for large numbers of COVID-19 patients to prepare ahead of time in a manner that optimizes patient care and minimizes risks to staff. Those of us on the early front lines have learned many of these lessons the hard way. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — we encourage all healthcare systems to take action before the storm comes.