Operators prepping for Medicare’s looming new resident classification and payment system should avoid the temptation to focus on reimbursement “sweet spots,” an industry expert warned Wednesday.

The Patient-Driven Payment Model is designed to reward operators for delivering and documenting quality care, said Steven Littlehale, chief innovation officer for Zimmet Healthcare Services Group. He was speaking at the firm’s annual conference in Atlantic City, NJ, which ends today.

Littlehale added that the new model will be a major upgrade over the RUGS-IV program it replaces, both in terms of intent and incentives. Current Medicare rules for skilled care operators focus too heavily on therapy services, he said. The new rules, which are scheduled to begin October 1, will help restore an emphasis on nurses and nursing care, he feels.

Marc Zimmet, president of the firm that bears the family name, added that much of the data now being used to determine payments to skilled care operators is inadequate or of marginal practical use. 

This year’s Zimmet conference attracted more than 1,400 registrants, its highest total ever.