CMS works with CDC to identify next COVID-19 hot spot to better target infection control surveys

The Trump administration is aiming to conduct targeted infection control inspections of hospitals and nursing homes in areas likely to be the next hot spots for a COVID-19 outbreak.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma offered an update Monday on the protocol for inspections of hospitals and nursing homes. The agency had previously announced inspections will heavily focus on infection control, and now CMS has updated what surveyors should look for in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Verma also said CMS is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify areas ripe to become COVID-19 hot spots.

The targeted approach will focus “resources on areas that need it the most,” Verma told reporters during a call Monday.

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CMS had previously said earlier this month it would tell state surveyors and accrediting organizations like The Joint Commission to focus inspections primarily on infection control. The Joint Commission has since suspended routine surveys.

Verma said that state surveyors are given instructions to not interfere with providers as they deliver care in hospitals. The number of cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. continues to rise, and some facilities are starting to get overwhelmed, especially facilities in states with high case loads such as Washington and New York.

“It could be [the hospital is] in a crisis situation and at that time it may not be appropriate for surveyors to ask questions and get in the way,” Verma said. “A lot of the time what they are doing is they are observing what is going on and they may see things that are lapses in protocol. They can rapidly communicate with management of the hospital.”

Verma didn’t say how CMS is going to identify potential COVID-19 hot spots, only that the agency will coordinate with the CDC.

The announcement is the latest bid by CMS to ease regulatory burdens for providers preparing to meet the influx of COVID-19 patients. Sunday, the agency pushed back deadlines and gave extensions for providers in value-based care programs.