New rule would toughen patient discharge procedures

Discharge procedures for patients moving from hospitals to skilled nursing facilities would face tougher scrutiny under a proposed rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Thursday.

The proposal would require hospitals to develop a discharge plan for patients within 24 hours of admission, and complete that plan before the patient is transferred home or to another facility. Hospitals also would have a medication reconciliation process in place, establish a post-discharge follow-up plan and transfer patient medical information to their receiving facility under the proposal.

The changes would meet requirements for discharge planning described in the IMPACT Act. The “simple but key” revisions would modernize the discharge process and take patients' preferences into account as they transfer home or to a nursing facility, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said in a press release.

The American Health Care Association said it intends to submit comments on the rule to ensure that it benefits both providers and patients, said Greg Crist, senior vice president of public affairs, in a statement to McKnight's.

"We support provisions of the proposed rule on discharge planning requirements that would enhance the transfer process to skilled nursing care centers, increase the sharing of patient information between skilled nursing centers and hospitals, and improve patient safety,” Crist said. “As patients play a greater role in making decisions about their post-acute care, we want to ensure that they have sufficient and appropriate information to make informed choices.”