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The American Hospital Association, along with the state hospital associations of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to cut some slack to hospitals affected by Hurricane Sandy when it comes to federal hospital quality reporting requirements.
Ironically, the request came in a letter sent Monday, the same day another natural disaster hit – the Moore, OK, tornado. Fittingly, the AHA and the state associations noted, “While these recommendations are specific to the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, we believe all federal quality reporting and payment programs should include fair, consistent waiver mechanisms to ensure hospitals do not suffer undue data reporting burden, or reputational and financial penalties due to natural disasters and other extraordinary circumstances beyond their control.”
The AHA complimented CMS for its disaster waiver of data submission and validation requirements for the inpatient and outpatient quality reporting programs, but noted that Sandy affected other federal quality reporting and payment programs as well, such as the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting program, the Hospital Acquired Condition Payment Reduction Program, and the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program. It added, “Our members also have voiced significant concerns about the impact of the storm on their scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Systems and Providers (HCAHPS) survey, and their performance in the value-based purchasing (VBP) program. Without changes to take into account the impact of the storm, hospitals in affected areas face an undue burden of data reporting and collection, as well as the potential for their performance to be unfairly penalized and reported.”
It’s an interesting issue, one that few of us consider in the heat of a crisis, when the priority is simply to provide the most effective care to the largest number of victims. During an emergency situation such as Hurricane Sandy or the tornado in Oklahoma, data collection is likely (and appropriately) a lower priority than usual, and hospitals that find themselves in the unenviable position of dealing with the fallout of a major natural disaster shouldn’t be penalized for understandable lapses. The AHA’s letter is a good start. Now let’s see how CMS responds.