CMS Issues Call to Action to Address COVID-19

CMS Issues Call to Action to Address COVID-19

State surveyors will focus on infection control procedures at healthcare facilities.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a call to action, March 4, to remind healthcare providers nationwide that they are required to maintain infection control procedures. State survey agencies and accrediting organizations will focus their facility inspections – starting with nursing homes and hospitals – on issues related to infection control. These actions are aimed at limiting the spread of the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
In a press release, CMS Administrator Seema Verma says, “All health care providers must immediately review their procedures to ensure compliance with CMS’ infection control requirements, as well as the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
The agency has deployed an infection prevention specialist to CDC’s Atlanta headquarters to assist with real-time guidance development.

Nursing Home and Other Facility Inspections

In addition to the focused inspections, an estimated 8,200 state survey agency surveyors will continue statutorily-required inspections in the 15,000 nursing homes across the country.
Effective immediately, survey activity is limited to the following (in order of priority):

  • All immediate jeopardy complaints(a situation in which entity noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death or harm) and allegations of abuse and neglect;
  • Complaints alleging infection control concerns, including facilities with potential COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses;
  • Statutorily required recertification surveys (Nursing Home, Home Health, Hospice, and ICF/IID facilities);
  • Any re-visits necessary to resolve current enforcement actions;
  • Initial certifications;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals that have a history of infection control deficiencies at the immediate jeopardy level in the last three years; and
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals/dialysis centers that have a history of infection control deficiencies at lower levels than immediate jeopardy.

What Should Facilities Be Doing Now to Prepare?

CMS is posting updated FAQs in real-time on a dedicated Coronavirus webpage. All healthcare providers should be checking this site daily.
Additionally, it is essential for facilities to review and update their infection control procedure plans. A memorandum, released March 4, issuing suspension of survey activities includes two attachments facilities can use to ensure proper measures are being taken:

  • Attachment A – Survey Planning in Facilities with Active or Suspected Cases of COVID-19 cases
  • Attachment B – Infection Prevention, Control & Immunizations

Guidance for Hospitals

Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention Concerning Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): FAQs and Considerations for Patient Triage, Placement and Hospital Discharge
This guidance instructs hospitals and critical access hospitals to:

  • Monitor the CDC website.
  • Contact their local health department if they have questions or suspect a patient or healthcare provider has COVID-19.
  • Have plans for monitoring healthcare personnel with exposure to patient with known or suspected COVID-19.

This guidance also answers questions such as:

  • Which patients are at risk for severe disease for COVID-19?
  • How should facilities screen visitors and patients for COVID-19?
  • How should facilities monitor or restrict healthcare facility staff?
  • Can hospitals restrict visitation of patients?

Guidance for Nursing Homes

Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes
This guidance instructs facilities to:

  • Monitor the CDC website for information and resources.
  • Contact their local health department if they have questions or suspect a resident of a nursing home has COVID-19.
  • Train and prepare staff to improve infection control and prevention practices.
  • Maintain a person-centered approach to care.

This guidance also answers questions such as:

  • How should facilities monitor or limit visitors?
  • When should nursing homes consider transferring a resident with suspected or confirmed infection with COVID-19 to a hospital?
  • How should facilities monitor or restrict healthcare facility staff?
  • When should a nursing home accept a resident who was diagnosed with COVID-19 from a hospital?

The protection of patients and residents of healthcare facilities from the spread of infectious disease should always be a top priority. This newly-issued guidance, and the increased focus from surveyors, is a reminder of that.

Renee Dustman
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Renee Dustman, BS, AAPC MACRA Proficient, is managing editor - content & editorial at AAPC. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Media Communications - Journalism. Renee has more than 30 years' experience in journalistic reporting, print production, graphic design, and content management. Follow her on Twitter @dustman_aapc.

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