Finding illumination on PBJ

Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

We've published a lot of information about Payroll-Based Journaling this year. Like ... A LOT.

A search of our archives reveals 18 articles in the first five months of 2016. That's likely undercounting, as our search function system is about as precise as, well, providers historically reporting their staffing data.

But I don't mind saying that hearing a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services official discuss PBJ yesterday was the first time a light bulb went off for me about the new system.

There's the literal reason, which is it's a mandate under the Affordable Care Act. Then there's the other reason Evan T. Shulman, CMS Deputy Director in the Division of Nursing Homes, Survey and Certification Group, gave: Families want the information.

While one should never take any government official's word as Gospel without checking it out, Shulman's point was one I've heard repeatedly, professionally and personally: Residents' families want to know who is taking care of their loved one. When you are choosing a facility, it's not unreasonable to question if there will be enough nurses on the unit, and how much direct care is being directed toward residents.

Plenty of facilities are doing a solid job with staffing. But it's being tracked via a two-week snapshot in a given year, and consumers don't know how staffing is fluctuating. It's also often on a piece of paper, not audited, and not quantified.

That's not to say the PBJ system is going to be perfect. But if there was another point hammered home in Shulman's presentation, it was CMS listened to providers who asked for time to prepare.

In the voluntary reporting process, there are no risks to the providers. Many have spent months tweaking their systems so that when they turn in their files for the first quarter (which starts July 1), the process goes smoothly.

As someone who is deadline-driven, I am empathetic  to those who say, ā€œI'll deal with it later.ā€ One of my new guidelines for public relations agencies working with providers writing guest blogs (especially physicians) is to set internal deadlines, because otherwise nothing will ever reach my desk. 

There's still time to start this process if you haven't already. As Shulman noted, while the official period start July 1, providers can still keep testing. Doing so will help you avoid being that provider who submits for the first time on day 44, when the information is due the next day. Don't be that provider.

Follow Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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