The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took action to improve quality and safety in healthcare facilities and empower patients with information to make decisions about where to receive care.
"Today we are taking action to improve our oversight of Accrediting Organizations, including by increasing transparency for patients on the organizations' performance," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. "The public trusts CMS to ensure the quality and safety of patient care, and we take this responsibility very seriously. Today's changes will bolster the processes for overseeing how effective Accrediting Organizations, who work on CMS' behalf, are in evaluating healthcare facilities."
Currently, Medicare-participating healthcare providers and suppliers are surveyed either by State survey agencies or by Accrediting Organizations (AOs) to ensure that they meet CMS' quality and safety standards. AOs receive deeming authority from CMS, which affirms that AOs' health and safety standards meet or exceed those of Medicare. Only facilities and suppliers that have been deemed by state or AO surveyors to meet CMS' standards may receive payments from Medicare. There are currently 10 CMS-approved AOs, each of which surveys one or more different types of facilities.
CMS will enhance and strengthen its oversight and quality transparency of AOs in three ways: 1) the public posting of AO performance data; 2) a redesigned process for AO validation surveys and 3) the release of the Annual Report to Congress. Taken together, these efforts will provide important insights to the public and assist AOs, providers, and suppliers in ensuring patient health and safety.
Posting AO Performance Data Online
To increase transparency for consumers, CMS will post new information on the CMS.Gov website, including: The latest quality-of-care deficiency findings following complaint surveys at facilities accredited by AOs; a list of providers determined by CMS to be out of compliance, with information included on the provider's AO; and overall performance data for AOs themselves. To view AO performance data, visit: https://qcor.cms.gov/hosp_cop/HospitalCOPs.html
Today, the public relies on accreditation status as a way to gauge providers' and suppliers' quality of care. By posting more detail--accredited hospitals' complaint surveys, out-of-compliance information, and performance data for AOs themselves--CMS will offer the public more nuanced information than accreditation status alone provides. The agency is currently prohibited by law from disclosing the actual surveys done by AOs, except for surveys of home health agencies and surveys related to an enforcement action.
Pilot Testing Direct Observation for AO Validation Surveys
CMS is testing a more streamlined, efficient way to assess AOs' ability to ensure that facilities and suppliers comply with CMS requirements.
CMS evaluates the ability of AOs to accurately assess providers' and suppliers' compliance with health and safety standards through a validation survey process. Historically, CMS has measured the effectiveness of AOs by choosing a sample of facilities, performing state-conducted assessment surveys within 60 days following AO surveys, and comparing results of the state surveys with the AO surveys. In a pilot test, CMS will eliminate the second state-conducted validation survey and instead use direct observation during the original AO-run survey to evaluate AOs' ability to assess compliance with CMS's Conditions of Participation.
Direct observation will enable CMS not only to evaluate AO performance more effectively, but also to suggest improvements and address concerns with AOs immediately. This approach will relieve providers from having to undergo the burden of a state's follow up assessment. The approach is another example of the wide-ranging effort at CMS to eliminate duplication and relieve burden, reducing the amount of time that healthcare facilities must spend on compliance activities.
CMS will also analyze and incorporate State complaint investigations of accredited facilities as part of the agency's strengthened validation program. This work will focus on identifying and monitoring accredited facilities that are out of compliance with Medicare health and safety requirements. CMS will use this information as an additional indicator of AO performance.
Posting the Most Recent Annual Report to Congress Regarding AO Performance
CMS has also posted the most recent annual Report to Congress, the "Review of Medicare's Program for Oversight of Accrediting Organizations and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Validation Program Fiscal Year 2017," on the CMS website. As the changes announced today inform and bolster our oversight of AOs, CMS will continue to publish this report online annually to demonstrate the impact of these changes on the oversight of AOs and to provide greater transparency for the public. The FY 2017 Report to Congress is posted online: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/SurveyCertificationGenInfo/Policy-and-Memos-to-States-and-Regions.html