The CMS finalized rules Monday that set minimum standards for home health agencies. The rules are aimed at improving the quality of care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and boosting patients' rights.
About 12,600 home health agencies provide services to roughly 5 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the U.S., according to the CMS. Skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and services from home health aides are among the range of services offered as part of home health care.
“Today's announcement is the first update in many years to Medicare and Medicaid home health agency rules and reflects current best practices for in-home care, based on recommendations from stakeholders and medical evidence,” said Dr. Kate Goodrich, CMS's chief medical officer and the director of its Center for Clinical Standards, in a statement announcing the rule.
The 374-page rule sets out conditions for home health agencies to be able to participate in federal Medicare and joint federal-state Medicaid programs. They include requirements in training, competency and patient rights.
The final rule requires that patients and caregivers receive written information about services, such as instructions for medications or contact information for clinical managers at home health agencies.
Other requirements focus on integrated, coordinated care. The rule expands a requirement for patient care coordination that designates a licensed clinician as responsible for services such as coordinating referrals. An integrated communication system is another requirement, aimed at ensuring that a home health agency and patient's physician communicate with each other.
“We are revising the home health agency requirements to focus on a patient-centered, data-driven, outcome-oriented process that promotes high quality patient care at all times for all patients,” the final rule says.
Several principles guided the new conditions of participation, according to the rule. One was to develop more continuous, integrated care processes. Another was to use a “patient-centered, interdisciplinary approach” that recognized the contributions of “various skilled professionals.” The new conditions for home health agencies also tried to eliminate administrative requirements that were not seen as helping patients.
Home health agencies must meet these requirements and others laid out in the rule to be eligible to provide services to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The regulations are set to take effect July 13, 2017.