5 notes on how COVID-19 upended hospital reporting, value-based programs

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In the coming years, CMS will face challenges around ensuring hospital data is adjusted to reflect effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a May 24 blog post published in Health Affairs.

The blog post, authored by Claudia Salzberg, PhD, vice president of health services research and policy at the Federation of American Hospitals, and Chip Kahn, president and CEO of FAH, examined how the pandemic has affected hospital reporting and value-based payment programs, illustrating possible ways for CMS to approach these challenges going forward.

Five things to know:

1. Personal protective equipment shortages, workforce challenges and higher acuity patients have all put a strain on hospitals' quality and performance data.

2. It's unclear just how much COVID-19 has affected hospitals' performance and quality data. CMS recognized this uncertainty in its annual Inpatient Prospective Payment System proposed rule released April 27.

3. Early research has found some correlations between COVID-19 and hospital-acquired infection rates. One study the authors cited found that during the pandemic, hospitals have reported significant increases in HAIs like central line-associated bloodstream infection rates. 

4. The pandemic's effect on quality measures will be influenced by geographical, temporal and acuity variations, with "no one-size-fits-all adjustment that accounts for the pandemic's impact on each and every hospital," Dr. Salzberg and Mr. Kahn wrote. 

5. They concluded: "The best short-term remedy requires that regulators first review each program individually … and identify the COVID-19-related data anomalies that would, absent any adjustment, yield inaccurate results and undermine the very purpose of the programs—to fairly hold providers financially accountable for their actions and to help patients choose providers based on the quality of care they can expect to receive based on past performance."

Read the full blog post here. 

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