The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services soon will begin collecting quarterly staffing information from skilled nursing facilities, albeit on a voluntary basis, an official said during an Open Door Forum call Thursday.

The new data collection system is still in the early stages of development, but CMS will ensure that it captures the full diversity of long-term care workers, including contracted staff and those employed through an agency, said Edward Mortimore, technical director for the Division of Nursing Homes.

The government likely will not mandate who must submit the payroll system information, Mortimore said. Rather, an individual facility probably will be able to appoint an appropriate “steward,” which might be the facility’s payroll vendor.

“I anticipate it’ll be a combination of folks initially involved, folks familiar with payroll data systems,” he said. “Ultimately, someone will have to be reliable for the accuracy and validity of the data submitted.”

One major goal is to get a clearer picture of how staffing fluctuates throughout the year, including turnover. This means that CMS will be looking at hours worked and employee start and end dates, Mortimore said. Wage information will not be collected.

The system will roll out nationwide after the pilot, likely in 2016, officials on the call said. They encouraged provider participation in the voluntary pilot phase to ensure that the process is not burdensome.

The recently passed IMPACT Act mandated this type of data collection. Providers currently self-report staffing levels once a year, which has led to charges from The New York Times and other sources that nursing homes inflate the figures.

The CMS officials also provided information about new quality measures. A SNF rehospitalization measure and one for successful discharge of short-stay residents are close to being implemented, probably in late 2015 or early 2016, they said. A successful short-stay discharge would be when the resident does not return to the facility, hospital or other healthcare setting.

Click here for information about accessing a recording of the call.