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Quality initiative kicks off: Survey system will not change, says CMS. (News Fronts).

THIS MONTH MARKS THE BEGINNING OF A demonstration program in which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will identify, collect, and publish nursing home quality information in Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington. The agency is expected to begin publishing the collected data in April 2002 to help those who rely on Medicare and Medicaid to find the best nursing home for their needs.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, in announcing the quality initiative this past November, stated that it "will help beneficiaries across the country to compare the performance of their local nursing homes and will provide the recognition that high-quality nursing homes deserve."

CMS Administrator Tom Scully emphasized that the initiative will not alter the nursing home regulatory process. "We are going to continue to use the survey and certification system exactly as it is," Scully told CLTC. "We will collect the data on [quality] indicators and publish it twice a year in the newspapers and broadcast it widely on our Web site."

CMS and the National Quality Forum (NQF), a non-profit health care standard-setting organization, will conduct hearings nationwide to solicit feedback from consumers, providers, and other interested parties. For the fivestate pilot program, CMS has worked with NQF to identify 11 risk-adjusted quality measures.

"Everybody wants to improve nursing home quality, and this is the way to do it," said Scully. "It's also a stepping stone that, if it works, can go from five states to all 50 states starting next October. Nursing homes are just the first step. Beyond that, we're going to look at home health [and] other providers."

The National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR), a Washington, D.C.-based consumer coalition, welcomes the initiative-with the caveat that consumers should not rely solely on this data.

"NCCNHR supports the new quality initiative because CMS Administrator Scully has given his personal assurance that the initiative will not reduce or replace any part of the nursing home survey and enforcement system," stated NCCNHR Executive Director Donna Lenhoff. "Quality indicators can never substitute for annual on-site inspections."

Provider organizations, including the American Health Care Association and the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, also have voiced their support. Peter Van Runkle, president and CEO of the Ohio Health Care Association, says that while he is pleased that Ohio was selected for the pilot program, it is too early to gauge how the state's nursing home operators will react to the initiative.

Sketchy details

Van Runkle believes that most providers are not yet aware of the new program. "Some of the details are still sketchy in terms of how the new quality indicators are going to be calculated and how they will be depicted on the Web site," he says.

According to CMS, quality-initiative data for the five states will be available in April 2002 at <www.medicare.gov>. BY SUZANNE BILYEU
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Title Annotation:Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Author:Bilyeu, Suzanne
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:482
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