As stated in Parts 1-2 of this series, CMS has released the new survey protocols, including new guidance as to what HHA surveyors will be expecting from HHA. It is believed the new protocols will provide more survey consistency. According to CMS, the revised survey process incorporated in the protocols is “data-driven, patient outcome-oriented and less structure and process-oriented.” This guidance is effective May 1, 2011.
The protocols focus on the 34 highest-priority standards that closely relate to care quality. During the CMS April 6, 2011 training for surveyors, Pat Sevast (a nurse consultant with the CMS Survey and Certification group) stated that just one finding related to the standards could merit a citation which is a significant move from the present behavior that is seeking non compliant trends at an agency; ie, one of five records or 20% of records reviewed yielded a specific ongoing trend.
With the new survey protocols, a surveyor could cite an agency if just one patient file reflected a patient care issue or a lack of one omitted supervisory visit. Industry leaders expect an increasing number of condition-level citations. The new protocols allow for one standard level citation to trigger a partial extended survey. If that would occur, the agency would be evaluated against the level 2 standards thus increasing their risk for serious citations.
The training for surveyors included Ms Sevast noting that CMS expects surveyors to cite at a condition level the patient rights’ conditions of participation (CoP) if an agency is out of compliance with two of the highest-priority standards and one level 2 violation. That would trigger an automatic extended survey necessitating review of all CoPs.
So what should an agency do?
Agencies should review the new survey protocols and become familiar with the Home Health “G” Tags and Abbreviated Identifiers, HHA Survey Investigation Worksheets and Calendar, and HHA Survey Investigation Worksheets as well as the Revised Home Health Survey Protocols of February 11, 2011 and the advanced copy of Appendix B- Guidance to Surveyors.
Parts 1-3 of the Select Data article regarding Survey Protocols published in the March 30, 2011 ezine looked at the types of surveys, level 1 and 2 citations, surveyor prep for the survey as well as the new entrance interviews, and the entrance information with specific information gathering techniques.
This segment, part 4, looks at the clinical records and home visits.
The number of records reviewed is still determined by the unduplicated census of the prior year as well as the number of records and home visits necessary to assess compliance with the CoPs. There is an increase in required home visits by the surveyor as the focus is essentially patient care oriented.
Home visits to patients should include those receiving high-tech care, home health aide services as well as patients triggering “at risk” of Level 1 and Level 2 potentially avoidable events. Some of the areas the surveyor will be looking at:
- storage of records,
- the most recent plan of care and its specificity as to orders and goals,
- when the patient was visited in relation to the physician’s order,
- completeness of the comprehensive assessment,
- evidence of “major decline or improvement,”
- how coordination of services are met,
- any evidence of the patient/caregiver contributing,
- care provisions not in compliance with the law,
- case conferences, informal conferences and telephone calls,
- patient specificity of the plans and visits,
- evidence of patients denied or not offered services,
- patients hospitalized,
- patients with LUPAs,
- reconciliation of care provided to orders given by the physician,
- inter-related factors of patients with co-morbidities and the care received,
- therapy visits made at ordered frequency,
- evidence that PTAs, COTAs, and LVN/LPNs were supervised appropriately,
- evidence home health aide visits were made every two weeks,
- if an RN or PT ever observed the aide’s provision of care,
- evidence the aide careplan was specific to the patient,
- evidence of consistent documentation of VS, insulin injections, B/P, pain frequency/ severity/interventions,
- how corrections are made in the record,
- evidence of discharge summaries in discharge records,
- evidence of consistent assessment of patient status and progress over the visits.
The home visit and interviews.
Home visit probes will focus on “compliance related to patient rights, accepted professional standards of practice, coordination of care, and comprehensive assessment of patients, plan of care, services provided, and clinical records.” Though not all inclusive, consider the surveyor will be looking at:
- any instances of personnel providing care that may not be in accordance with laws, regulations, state practice acts, accepted professional standards, or agency policies and procedures,
- communication by providers with patients/caregivers,
- evidence that care is delivered by accepted professional standards,
- evidence that care providers follow CDC guidelines,
- evidence the aide follows the plan as identified by written instructions,
- evidence that “medications in the home are the same as those listed on plan of care, interim orders, and clinical record notes,”
- and asking the clinical personnel “about instances of patient care noted in home visits or record reviews that deviated from the physician orders, accepted professional standards or agency policy.”
The surveyor will interview the patient caregiver to validate that care documented in the plan is the care that is provided, will ascertain if needs are being met by the agency, identify if caregivers are satisfied with the care, that medications presently taken are what have been prescribed (and will compare it to physician orders found in the clinical record), that there is participation by the patient/caregiver in the planning of care, and if they understand the process for handling a complaint. These are minimum areas of review and the agency should be aware that the surveyor may ask when visits occurred, did the clinician and care provider wash their hands, and did they bring their own towels? The surveyor may ask to see all medications taken, including OTC meds and engage the patient/caregiver in discussing when and how they take the meds.
It is important that agencies review processes that are in place to be certain that appropriate agency personnel understand policy and those procedures that support that policy. There needs to be consistency of statements when speaking with the surveyors, who will now have a greater number of interviews scheduled then documented.
The information analysis
This process requires surveyors to review the information gathered during the survey and exercise judgments about the effect of care upon patient outcomes, the degree of severity of any behaviors not fully in compliance, the frequency of the non compliance, and how the services were impacted.
Standard and Condition Level Deficiencies
Data Tags (G-Tags) are assigned to the standards in the interpretive guidelines. If a data tag is assigned to a condition it becomes a condition level data tag. If assigned to a standard level deficiency it is cited at a standard level tag.
If a Level 1 standard-level deficiency is identified, “the surveyor is required to move to a partial extended survey and the surveyor examines, at a minimum, the Level 2 standards under the same condition and any other standards the surveyor chooses to examine.” A review of all Level 2 standards that relate to a deficiency at Level 1 standards is the minimum requirement.
Any condition level deficiency “requires a move to an extended survey which includes a review of all CoPs and the policies and procedures that resulted in the substandard care.” Substandard care is defined by CMS as “one or more CoPs out of compliance.”
The new survey process is data-driven and begins with the surveyor’s pre-survey preparation. The surveyor will be focusing on patient care and outcomes derived. The Appendix B of the State Operations Manual has been revised and all are encouraged to read about the new survey process. The definition of a standard survey has been revised to increase the survey’s focus on those standards most related to patient care. Surveyor worksheets are available online at the CMS worksite and provide insight as to the depth and path of the survey. CMS has established a special mailbox for questions related to the new survey protocols email@example.com. Appendix B Guidance to Surveyors: Home Health Agencies of the State Operations Manual offers, in addition to the surveyor process, a full listing of the G-Tags and the interpretive guidelines allowing the agency to see the basis for the interview questions.
This survey process is believed to offer more consistency and focus. The new process complements the patient/outcome focus of OASIS and the drive for improved outcomes and quality patient care. The surveyors training has been completed. It would be interesting to hear from agencies that experience the new process. Arm yourself with information. Let the new process begin!