Feds to tackle nursing home workforce development in FY 2017

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Two federal agencies are planning to collaborate in the next fiscal year to address long-term care workforce issues in nursing home settings, according to a report released Thursday.

The report, published by the Government Accountability Office, identified gaps and limitations in data about direct care workers, such as nursing assistants and home health aides, that hinder workforce planning efforts.

Among those gaps is a lack of data from the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration on the supply and demand of the direct care workforce, the GAO said. HRSA has not produced an assessment of direct care worker data in more than 10 years, despite the creation of new data sources.

“For example, at the time we interviewed HRSA officials, they were unaware that [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] planned to begin collecting staffing data from nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid,” the report said.

The growing number of seniors who will require long-term care, along with workforce issues like recruiting and retention, calls for more thorough federal data before policymakers are able to develop workforce strategies, the GAO concluded.

HHS agreed with the report's findings, stating in a response that it will “continue to explore” options to expand the available data on the direct care workforce.

One of those options is a planned collaboration between HRSA and the CMS' Division of Nursing Homes in fiscal year 2017. The partnership would “allow HRSA to inform and support” CMS' workforce initiatives, and result in a “framework” for workforce development, assessment and planning in the nursing home setting, officials said.

Click here to read the full GAO's full report, “Better Information Needed on Nursing Assistants, Home Health Aides, and Other Direct Care Workers.”