Healthcare News & Insights

New rule would require hospitals to give patients more data about nursing homes

Traditionally, hospitals haven’t provided patients with much information about the quality of any nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities where they may end up after discharge. But a proposed rule may place more responsibility on hospitals in this regard. 

An article from Kaiser Health News published on NPRDoctor with Tablet and Senior Patient discusses the rationale behind the implementation of this rule – and how it may change the direction of providers’ conversations about nursing homes with patients.

Limited information

In most cases, hospitals merely provide patients with lists of the skilled nursing facilities in their area. And they’ll also let them know whether each facility has room for new patients. Little information is given to patients about the nursing facilities’ quality ratings or health violations.

Per the article, this is because hospitals are wary of violating Medicare guidelines designed to allow patients to make independent decisions about their care that aren’t influenced by any financial arrangements hospitals have with nursing facilities.

But while this silence protects hospitals, it’s not always beneficial for patients.

Often, uninformed patients end up selecting a nursing facility that’s prone to issues, which means they’re at higher risk of receiving substandard care. And this could make patients more likely to develop infections, bedsores and other complications, causing them to be hospitalized again.

In response to this problem, the Obama administration is currently working on a rule that would require hospitals to give patients more detailed information about their care options after discharge, whether they’re going to a skilled nursing facility or not.

Along with a list of nearby nursing facilities, hospitals must also give patients access to specific quality data that helps them select a facility or provider for follow-up care based on their individual recovery needs.

The rule was drafted last October, and it’s been in limbo ever since. There’s a chance it could be approved before President Obama’s term ends. If it’s not, it may languish longer once President-elect Trump takes office since, according to another NPR article, he only plans to approve new regulations if two existing ones are eliminated first.

Proactive approach

Some hospitals and health systems aren’t waiting for federal legislation to pass. They’ve already taken steps to give patients a more complete picture of their post-discharge options for nursing facilities.

Here’s an example from the Kaiser Health News/NPR piece: Massachusetts-based Partners Healthcare, the health system that operates Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals, offers patients a complete list of nursing facilities in the state that gives preferential status to those that meet strict quality requirements.

The health system’s preferred facilities score well on state inspections, have low readmission rates and typically have a doctor or nurse practitioner onsite regularly.

Looking ahead

Preferential networks like these will only become more common as hospitals start forming partnerships with other healthcare providers and facilities to deliver care with a focus on value.

And as long as hospitals offer patients a complete view of their options, making it clear which facilities are affiliated with the hospital, the practice should be compliant with existing regulations (though it’s a good idea to check with your legal team first).

With that in mind, hospitals may want to start taking a more active, quality-focused role when it comes to patients and their community care options after discharge. Even if the new rule isn’t passed, it’s a smart idea that aligns with the current shift toward providing value-based care.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest healthcare news and insights delivered to your inbox.