June 15, 2020
CMS releases comprehensive COVID-19 numbers

CMS publishes SNF coronavirus data after weeks of inquiry

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As of Thursday, June 4th, providers can now access updated coronavirus death and case totals on the CMS Nursing Home Compare website. The public database features information reported by facilities via the National Healthcare Safety Network system including stats on resident and staff impact, facility capacity, PPE, supplies, and more.
 
“The file contains an individual record for each certified Medicare skilled nursing facility/Medicaid nursing facility and the ending date for each collection week, and is updated weekly,” reads the release. “This information is used to assist with national surveillance of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and support actions to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents.”
 
Federal leaders advise that the current figures should not be used for trend analysis due to possible submission errors in these turbulent times. Not to mention, totals will continue to change as facilities report future numbers and correct potential miscalculations. Still, CMS has put data quality checks in place to help improve the system’s accuracy.
 

 
LTC lessons learned

For ease of access and understanding, the public file is presented in a number of ways. In addition to comprehensive reports, which can be downloaded, the website also provides at-a-glance figures for quick consumption. The dual design was intentional, as CMS hopes to serve both casual visitors and researchers on the hunt for more detailed analytics.
 
The agency is working closely with facilities to help mitigate errors. For instance, many contributors have mistakenly entered cumulative totals, as opposed to submitting new cases and deaths per reporting week. Also, in line with their commitment to transparency, CMS leaders announced that the current dataset disproves a previous assumption about contributing factors to these statistics. In fact, there is a correlation between facility rating and coronavirus prevalence.
 
“Facilities that were in the highest percentile—with greater than 90% or 95% of cases and deaths per thousand than other facilities—nursing homes with a one-star inspection rating were more likely to have a large outbreak than facilities with a five-star inspection rating,” said a CMS spokesman. “That means facilities with poor compliance history or poor survey history are more likely to have larger outbreaks.”
 
Now, more than ever, it’s important for operators to take inspections and assessments seriously, as the public is bound to put more stock in the Five-Star Quality Rating System—even when coronavirus is a distant memory. If the current pandemic numbers are proven accurate, a nursing home’s ratings could be perceived as a matter of life and death.