Expanded surveys will focus on staffing, MDS coding

Health officials in Kansas failed to follow up on 52% of deficiencies identified during nursing home surveys, a federal watchdog said in a report released Monday.

The new report, published by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, included a review of 100 deficiencies found in 79 facilities during surveys in 2014. The report is part of an ongoing series by the OIG to reviews states’ verification of deficiency corrections. So far Arizona and Washington have been similarly criticized for their lack of follow-up, while Missouri and Oregon’s verification processes were approved by the OIG.

Out of the 100 deficiency sample, just 48 were verified by Kansas to have been corrected, the report found.

“The State agency’s practice was to accept the nursing homes’ correction plans as confirmation of substantial compliance without obtaining the required evidence of correction for less serious deficiencies,” the OIG said.

In addition to the deficiencies that were not verified to be corrected, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services also failed to provide sufficient evidence that corrections had been made for 13% of the deficiencies. The state also did not always carry out nursing home surveys within 15 months of the previous survey, as required by federal regulations, the OIG said.

To fix the problem, the OIG recommended that Kansas officials work to improve their practices for verifying corrections, update policies to make sure that survey system data is protected, and develop a correction plan to ensure the time between surveys does not exceed 15 months.

The Department of Aging and Disability Services’ Survey, Certification and Credentialing Commission responded that it concurred with the report’s findings, and that it has been working on steps to improve its survey verification process.

Nursing home consumer advocates told The Wichita Eagle that the OIG’s report was “welcome,” since failing to verify deficiency corrections “puts residents at higher risk.”