Providers will soon be required to report potential infectious disease outbreaks directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday that changes would be coming for nursing homes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“[Nursing homes] do report this information to the local health departments, but we’re going to be enhancing our reporting requirements to get more real-time information about where there’s outbreaks across the country in nursing homes. So basically, enhancing their reporting directly to CDC,” Verma said during a call with members of the media. 

Seema Verma

The new reporting requirements will help the agency focus its surveillance efforts, according to Verma. She also stressed the importance of having a strong surveillance system in place to help respond to future infections before they spread within a facility.

“[Nursing homes are] going to be the foundation of our surveillance efforts. That’s one of the reasons why we’re enhancing the reporting of nursing homes directly into the CDC around the cases of the COVID virus,” she said. 

Guidance on the new reporting requirements should be available for providers by the end of this week, Verma said. She did not specify what would be required.

Such a move would come after both major nursing home associations on Saturday called for providers to report all COVID-19 positive cases to authorities. One major post-acute care provider has already begun publicizing on its public-facing website its number and locations of COVID infections.

Nursing home critics also have been among those pressuring federal health officials to start publicly tracking coronavirus infections and deaths in long-term care facilities.

Verma said that it’s important for nursing home residents and employees to have as much information as possible about what’s happening within their facilities.  

“We recognize that there should be some more reporting and so we are currently engaged with the CDC around efforts to increase reporting of outbreaks, specifically of COVID,” she said. “We want to make sure that we all have real time information about the status of the COVID virus in nursing homes.”