Providers must facilitate constant communication among patients, family and themselves.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services FY 2016 to 2017 Nursing Home Action Plan laid out five strategies that will “guide” the CMS’ Division of Nursing Homes in improving safety and quality throughout the nursing home industry. The plan was released Friday.

The top item is enhancing consumer awareness and assistance in navigating nursing home care, through tools like the Five-Star Quality Rating System. Consumers also would benefit from improved staffing data on the CMS website, the plan said, which will be bolstered by the mandatory payroll-based staffing data starting July 1.

CMS also plans to strengthen guidance and training for surveyors following the finalization of the requirements for nursing homes participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, expected to be released in September. The agency expects to streamline its nursing home complaint investigations, and develop a revised survey methodology that combines the “best of both traditional and QIS processes.”

On the enforcement side, CMS will expand its relationships with regional, state and federal programs, consumer advocates and national associations in order to focus on the “transparency, consistency and application” of enforcement activities. Among those activities is improving monitoring of persistently poor performing “special focus facilities” through pilot programs across various CMS regions.

The agency also anticipates taking on several quality improvement areas, including antipsychotic reduction, as well as a reduction of physical and chemical restraints.

The final strategy in the action plan focuses on partnerships between consumers, providers, professional associations, surveying agencies and other stakeholders in the healthcare system.

“Although each entity within the system may have different roles and responsibilities, the goal of quality care is advanced when an increasing number of entities in the system can act synergistically,” the plan reads. “When such a concerted action is achieved, the total can indeed become greater than “the sum of its parts.”