COVID-19 Diligence on SNFs Now a Bit Easier: CMS Publishes COVID-19 Data in a Bid for Greater Public Transparency
|Footnotes for this article are available at the end of this page.|
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) posted its first set of nursing home coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) data, including numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths and infection control inspection results on June 4, 2020. The publication was intended to provide increased transparency to “assist with national surveillance of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and support actions to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents.”1 CMS expressly acknowledges that “the presence of cases of COVID-19 in a nursing home does not automatically indicate noncompliance with federal requirements.”2
The Nursing Home Compare dataset now contains a record for each certified Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF)/Medicaid nursing facility, allowing the public access to COVID-19 data at the individual facility level. The information includes, but is not limited to, each facility’s weekly and total numbers of residents admitted with COVID-19, residents with confirmed COVID-19, residents with suspected COVID-19 cases, and resident deaths.
The COVID-19 data has also been aggregated on a national level. As of May 31, 2020, CMS reported approximately 95,000 confirmed cases, approximately 58,000 suspected cases, and almost 32,000 deaths. However, these numbers do not account for all facilities. CMS reported that, at present, approximately 88% of the 15,400 Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes have come into compliance with CMS’s mandatory reporting requirements, which were first announced in early May, 2020. Industry experts and CMS agree that the number of confirmed cases will continue to rise as more facilities come into compliance and as more states implement mandatory universal testing requirements. CMS acknowledged:
As the number of facilities reporting increases each week, it will increase the reported number of COVID-19 cases, suspected cases, and deaths each week. Additionally, facilities may opt to report cumulative data on their first collection date retrospectively to January 1, 2020. Due to these factors, the number of cases, suspected cases, and deaths reported by some facilities’ first data submission may be higher because it reflects data over a longer length of time, rather than in the last seven days.3
Accordingly, CMS cautioned users from relying on the data, and particularly this first set of data, to forecast trends, stating: “data reported over the first few weeks should not be used to perform trend analysis and longitudinal analyses.”4
Nursing Home Compare now also includes access to infection control survey results and reports. The information again identifies facilities on an individual basis and lists any deficiencies including the tag, description, level of harm, and number of residents affected. Since March 4, 2020, CMS and its network of state-based inspectors has conducted over 8,300 surveys. As of June 4, 2020, CMS made the results of 5,700 of those surveys available online. CMS will continue to post the survey results on a monthly basis, as they are completed.
Given that this published data will be used for multiple purposes including admission decisions, diligence on transactions, and litigation, SNFs should carefully monitor the information that has been published to confirm its accuracy.
For more information, contact Hedy S. Rubinger and Charmaine A. Mech.
 CMS, COVID-19 Nursing Home Data, https://data.cms.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Data/bkwz-xpvg.
- Hedy Silver Rubinger
- Charmaine A. Mech