Covid-19 Not the Only Risk for Nursing Home Residents
I held off on publishing this article because I do not want to say something that is inappropriate in the middle of the Covid pandemic. But it seems like a significant concern.
Specifically I am writing about the fact that average time since being inspected by CMS continues to grow. As you can see from this chart that we posted last month, what is supposed to be an annual inspection has now risen to an average of 529 days (or nearly 18 months). By comparison before the pandemic this average hovered around 250 days (or 8.3 months). This is more than double the average time between inspections pre-pandemic!
What does this mean? Hopefully it does not impact patient care. Nursing homes are licensed by the states, so ideally this oversight continues.
At a minimum it means that the data is not as good as it has historically been and that CMS Five Star Quality Rating System (which we have discussed previously as very flawed) is even less reliable.
The latest data which has a date of March 1st, 2021 shows that inspections are beginning again. There were no inspections reported from May 1, 2020 through December 1, 2020. The data for January 1, 2021 shows inspections starting again and rising to 20 for March 1st and 33 for April 1st. Still this is significantly below the 80 to 90 that were inspected monthly prior to the pandemic.
As time goes by this inspection backlog will only get worse if CMS is not able to significantly ramp up its efforts. The latest provider information includes data on 15,328 nursing homes. At a rate of 33 inspections per month it will take 464 months to inspect every home.
At a time when nursing homes are suffering the lack of transparency makes it even more difficult.