Survey Readiness and Management

Survey readiness is what happens every day that the surveyor does not step onto the floor, all in preparation for the day that he or she does. Be ready.Learn about all of the trends in the new Survey process, how to get ready for survey, manage it while the surveyors are in your facility, to responding to deficiencies. Check back here frequently for survey news!

  • Five-Star Helpline Open Feb. 22 - 26

    By QTSO - February 17, 2021

    The Five Star Preview Reports were available on February 15, 2021. To access these reports, select the CASPER Reporting link located on the CMS QIES Systems for Providers page. Once in the CASPER Reporting system, select the 'Folders' button and access the Five Star Report in your 'st LTC facid' folder, where 'st' is the 2-character postal code of the state in which your facility is located and 'facid' is the state-assigned Facility ID of your facility.

    Nursing Home Compare will update with the February Five Star data on February 24, 2021.

    Important Note: The 5 Star Help Line (800-839-9290) will be available February 22 through February 26, 2021.

    Please direct your inquiries to  if the Help Line is not available.

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  • National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) Long-term Care Facility COVID-19 Reporting Module Website UPDATED (2/21)

    By CDC - February 14, 2021

    CDC’s NHSN provides healthcare facilities, such as long-term care facilities (LTCFs), with a secure reporting platform for reporting outcomes and process measures in a systematic way. Reported data are immediately available for use in strengthening local and national surveillance, monitoring trends in infection rates, assisting in identifying resource insecurities, and informing progress toward infection prevention goals.

    The NHSN Long-term Care Facility Component supports the nation’s COVID-19 response through the LTCF COVID-19 Module. Facilities eligible to report data to NHSN’s COVID-19 Module include nursing homes/skilled nursing, long-term care for the developmentally disabled, and assisted living facilities.

    Data reported into the LTCF COVID-19 Module Surveillance Reporting Pathways facilitate assessment of the impact of COVID-19 through facility reported surveillance data. Examples of data reported in the pathways include:

    ·         Counts of residents and facility personnel newly positive for COVID-19 based on viral test results.

    ·         COVID-19 vaccination status of residents newly positive for COVID-19.

    ·         Re-infections in residents and facility personnel previously infected with COVID-19.

    ·         COVID-19 related death counts among residents and facility personnel.

    ·         Staffing shortages.

    ·         Availability and surge capacity use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and alcohol-based hand rub.

    ·         Monoclonal therapeutic availability and use.

    ·         Ventilator capacity and supplies for facilities with ventilator-dependent units.

    The Point-of-Care (POC) Test Reporting Tool is a separate reporting option for LTCFs to report SARS-CoV-2 test results provided by a POC device. NHSN routes reported POC laboratory test result data to the public health agency at the local or state level with jurisdictional authority and responsibility for receiving those data. Important: the reporting of POC test result data in this tool does not take the place of answering POC related questions in the Resident Impact and Facility Capacity surveillance reporting pathway.

    Weekly reporting of COVID-19 vaccination data for residents and healthcare personnel is another option available to LTCFs. Additional information about surveillance and vaccination reporting, please visit the Weekly HCP & Resident COVID-19 Vaccination webpage.

    LTCF data submission options include manual data entry, CSV file submission by individual facilities or bulk CSV file upload for multiple facilities, and/or NHSN DIRECT CDA Automation for the Point-of-Care (POC) Test Reporting Tool.

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  • CMS QSO Memo: Enhanced Enforcement Actions Based on Nursing Home COVID-19 Data and Inspection Results (2/21)

    By CMS - February 08, 2021

    DATE: June 1, 2020

    REVISED 01/04/2021

    TO: State Survey Agency Directors FROM: Director Quality, Safety & Oversight Group

    SUBJECT: Revised COVID-19 Survey Activities, CARES Act Funding, Enhanced Enforcement for Infection Control deficiencies, and Quality Improvement Activities in Nursing Homes

    CMS is committed to taking critical steps to protect vulnerable Americans to ensure America’s health care facilities are prepared to respond to the CoronavirusDisease2019(COVID-19) Public Health Emergency (PHE).

    • CMS has implemented a new COVID-19 reporting requirement for nursing homes, and is partnering with CDC’s robust federal disease surveillance system to quickly identify problem areas and inform future infection control actions.

    • Following the March 6, 2020 survey prioritization, CMS has relied on State Survey Agencies to perform Focused Infection Control surveys of nursing homes across the country. We are now initiating a performance-based funding requirement tied to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act supplemental grants for State Survey Agencies. Further, we are providing guidance for the limited resumption of routine survey activities. CMS has revised the criteria requiring states to conduct focused infection control surveys due to the increased availability of resources for the testing of residents and staff and factors related to the quality of care.

    • CMS is providing Frequently Asked Questions related to health, emergency preparedness and lifesafety code surveys

    • CMS is also enhancing the penalties for noncompliance with infection control to provide greater accountability and consequence for failures to meet these basic requirements. This action follows the agency’s prior focus on equipping facilities with the tools they needed to ensure compliance, including 12 nursing home guidance documents, technical assistance webinars, weekly calls with nursing homes, and many other outreach efforts. The enhanced enforcement actions are more significant for nursing homes with a history of past infection control deficiencies, or that cause actual harm to residents or Immediate Jeopardy.

    • Quality Improvement Organizations have been strategically refocused to assist nursing homes in combating COVID-19 through such efforts as education and training, creating action plans based on infection control problem areas and recommending steps to establish a strong infection control and surveillance program.

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  • LTCSP Survey Resources: Surveyor Tools Updated (2/21)

    By CMS - February 07, 2021

    This ZIP file contains resources for surveyors conducting initial surveys under the Long-term Care Survey Process (LTCSP).



    02/05/2021 Survey Resource folder update: 


    LTCSP Procedure Guide

    • Expansion of complaints/FRIs in LTCSP during recertification survey

    LTCSP 11.9.5 User Guide

    • Expansion of complaints/FRIs in LTCSP during recertification survey


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  • LTCSP Procedure Guide - Updated (2/21)

    By CMS - February 07, 2021

    The LTCSP Procedure Guide provides instruction on the procedural and software steps necessary for completing the Long-term Care Survey Process. Surveyors use the Procedure Guide for all standard surveys of SNFs and NFs, whether freestanding, distinct parts, or dually participating. The LTCSP steps are organized into seven parts: 1) offsite preparation; 2) facility entrance; 3) initial pool process; 4) sample selection; 5) investigation; 6) ongoing and other survey activities; and 7) potential citations.

    2/5 update

    1. LTCSP Procedure Guide: Expansion of complaints/FRIs in LTCSP during recertification survey


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  • Check Your Data: Updated Data Process Will Impact CASPER/SNF QRP Provider Demographic Data (2/21)

    By QTSO - February 06, 2021

    CMS will be transitioning to a new data source for a provider’s demographic data for all five Post-Acute Care (PAC) provider types (Skilled Nursing Facilities / Nursing Facilities (SNF/NFs), Home Health Agencies (HHAs), Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities (IRFs), Long-Term Care Hospitals (LTCHs) and Hospices).  These demographic data include such items as the provider name, provider-mailing address, provider physical address, State, ZIP Code, etc.  These provider demographic data are displayed on the Provider and Quality Measure reports generated from the Quality Improvement and Evaluation System (QIES) Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports (CASPER) Reporting application for SNF/NF and Hospice providers and reports generated from Internet Quality Improvement and Evaluation System (iQIES) for HHA, IRF, and LTCH providers.  Additionally these same demographic data are displayed on the public reporting websites such as the Provider Data Catalog (PDC).

    Historically provider demographic data have been maintained in the Automated Survey Processing Environment or ASPEN software; however, CMS will be transitioning to use the demographic information from Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS).  While this transition is underway, a final date when all demographic data will be obtained from PECOS has not been identified.  During this transition, all PAC providers will be responsible to ensure their latest demographic data are updated and available in both the ASPEN and PECOS systems. 

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  • CMS COVID-19 Nursing Homes Best Practices Toolkit and New QIN-QIO Virtual Assistance UPDATED (2/21)

    By CMS - January 31, 2021

    New tool provides innovative solutions for states and facilities to protect our nation’s vulnerable nursing home residents during emergency

    CMS has released a new toolkit (updated 2/3/21) developed to aid nursing homes, Governors, states, departments of health, and other agencies who provide oversight and assistance to these facilities, with additional resources to aid in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic within nursing homes. The toolkit builds upon previous actions taken by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which provide a wide range of tools and guidance to states, healthcare providers and others during the public health emergency. The toolkit is comprised of best practices from a variety of front line health care providers, Governors’ COVID-19 task forces, associations and other organizations, and experts, and is intended to serve as a catalogue of resources dedicated to addressing the specific challenges facing nursing homes as they combat COVID-19.

    “The coronavirus presents a unique challenge for nursing homes. CMS is using every tool at our disposal to protect our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and aid the facilities that care for them. This toolkit will support state, local leaders and nursing homes in identifying best practices to protect our vulnerable elderly in nursing homes” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  

    The toolkit provides detailed resources and direction for quality improvement assistance and can help in the creation and implementation of strategies and interventions intended to manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19 within nursing homes. The toolkit outlines best practices for a variety of subjects ranging from infection control to workforce and staffing. It also provides contact information for organizations who stand ready to assist with the unique challenges posed by caring for individuals in long-term care settings. Each state was involved in the creation of this toolkit, resulting in a robust resource that may be leveraged by a variety of entities serving this vulnerable population.

    Additionally, CMS has contracted with 12 Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs) to work with providers, community partners, beneficiaries and caregivers on data-driven quality improvement initiatives designed to improve the quality of care for beneficiaries across the United States. The QIN-QIOs are reaching out to nursing homes across the country to provide virtual technical assistance for homes that have an opportunity for improvement based on an analysis of previous citations for infection control deficiencies using publicly available data found on Nursing Home Compare.

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  • AHRQ: Treatments for Acute Pain: A Systematic Review (1/21)

    By AHRQ - January 24, 2021

    Main Points

    • Opioids are probably less effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for surgical dental pain and kidney stone pain and might be similarly effective to NSAIDs for low back pain.
    • Opioids might be and NSAIDs are probably more effective than acetaminophen for surgical dental pain, but opioids are probably less effective than acetaminophen for kidney stone pain.
    • An opioid might be more effective than gabapentin for acute neuropathic pain.
    • Opioids are probably associated with increased risk of short-term adverse events versus nonopioid pharmacologic therapy for acute pain, including any adverse event, study withdrawal due to adverse events, nausea, dizziness, and somnolence, but serious adverse events are uncommon in randomized trials.
    • Being prescribed an opioid for acute low back pain or postoperative pain might be associated with increased likelihood of use of opioids at long-term followup versus not being prescribed.
    • Heat therapy is probably effective for acute low back pain, spinal manipulation might be effective for acute back pain with radiculopathy, massage might be effective for postoperative pain, and a cervical collar or exercise might be effective for acute neck pain with radiculopathy.
    • Research is very limited on the comparative effectiveness of therapies for sickle cell pain, acute neuropathic pain, neck pain, and management of postoperative pain following discharge.

    Structured Abstract

    Objectives. To evaluate the effectiveness and comparative effectiveness of opioid, nonopioid pharmacologic, and nonpharmacologic therapy in patients with specific types of acute pain, including effects on pain, function, quality of life, adverse events, and long-term use of opioids.

    Data sources. Electronic databases (Ovid® MEDLINE®, PsycINFO®, Embase®, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews) to August 2020, reference lists, and a Federal Register notice.

    Review methods. Using predefined criteria and dual review, we selected randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of outpatient therapies for eight acute pain conditions: low back pain, neck pain, other musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, postoperative pain following discharge, dental pain (surgical or nonsurgical), pain due to kidney stones, and pain due to sickle cell disease. Meta-analyses were conducted on pharmacologic therapy for dental pain and kidney stone pain, and likelihood of repeat or rescue medication use and adverse events. The magnitude of effects was classified as small, moderate, or large using previously defined criteria, and strength of evidence was assessed.

    Results. One hundred eighty-three RCTs on the comparative effectiveness of therapies for acute pain were included. Opioid therapy was probably less effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for surgical dental pain and kidney stones, and might be similarly effective as NSAIDs for low back pain. Opioids and NSAIDs were more effective than acetaminophen for surgical dental pain, but opioids were less effective than acetaminophen for kidney stone pain. For postoperative pain, opioids were associated with increased likelihood of repeat or rescue analgesic use, but effects on pain intensity were inconsistent. Being prescribed an opioid for acute low back pain or postoperative pain was associated with increased likelihood of use of opioids at long-term followup versus not being prescribed, based on observational studies. Heat therapy was probably effective for acute low back pain, spinal manipulation might be effective for acute back pain with radiculopathy, acupressure might be effective for acute musculoskeletal pain, an opioid might be effective for acute neuropathic pain, massage might be effective for some types of postoperative pain, and a cervical collar or exercise might be effective for acute neck pain with radiculopathy. Most studies had methodological limitations. Effect sizes were primarily small to moderate for pain, the most commonly evaluated outcome. Opioids were associated with increased risk of short-term adverse events versus NSAIDs or acetaminophen, including any adverse event, nausea, dizziness, and somnolence. Serious adverse events were uncommon for all interventions, but studies were not designed to assess risk of overdose, opioid use disorder, or long-term harms. Evidence on how benefits or harms varied in subgroups was lacking.

    Conclusions. Opioid therapy was associated with decreased or similar effectiveness as an NSAID for some acute pain conditions, but with increased risk of short-term adverse events. Evidence on nonpharmacological therapies was limited, but heat therapy, spinal manipulation, massage, acupuncture, acupressure, a cervical collar, and exercise were effective for specific acute pain conditions. Research is needed to determine the comparative effectiveness of therapies for sickle cell pain, acute neuropathic pain, neck pain, and management of postoperative pain following discharge; effects of therapies for acute pain on non-pain outcomes; effects of therapies on long-term outcomes, including long-term opioid use; and how benefits and harms of therapies vary in subgroups.


    Chou R, Wagner J, Ahmed AY, Blazina I, Brodt E, Buckley DI, Cheney TP, Choo E, Dana T, Gordon D, Khandelwal S, Kantner S, McDonagh MS, Sedgley C, Skelly AC. Treatments for Acute Pain: A Systematic Review. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 240. (Prepared by the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2015-00009-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 20(21)-EHC006. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; December 2020. 

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  • Five-Star Technical User's Guide Plus Claims-Based Measures Appendix (1/21)

    By CMS - January 18, 2021

    CMS created the Five-Star Quality Rating System to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily. The Nursing Home Compare Web site features a quality rating system that gives each nursing home a rating of between 1 and 5 stars. Nursing homes with 5 stars are considered to have much above average quality and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality much below average. This manual provides in-depth descriptions of the ratings and the methods used to calculate them. 

    On December 1, 2020 the Nursing Home Compare website was retired. It has been replaced by the new Care Compare website. Care Compare can be accessed at: ( The Provider Data Catalog (PDC) located at allows users to search and download the publicly reported data. While this Technical Users’ Guide has been revised to refer to Care Compare, there may be previously published materials or documents that refer to Nursing Home Compare and all prior references to Nursing Home Compare will now apply to Care Compare.


    January 2021 Revisions


    Health Inspection Rating Changes:

    Beginning with the January 2021 refresh, CMS resumed calculating the health inspection rating domain and began to use results from surveys that occurred after March 3, 2020. Additionally, focused infection control surveys are included in the rating calculation, with citations from these surveys counting towards the total weighted health inspection score (similar to how complaint survey citations are counted).

    These changes resulted in updates to the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program, including updates to SFF candidates, and facilities’ status for receiving an icon for noncompliance related to abuse. Specifically, updates to the health inspection data due to the incorporation of surveys occurring after March 3, 2020 and the updating of the complaint periods means that the abuse icon will be removed for facilities that no longer meet the abuse icon criteria based on more recent survey findings. Once facilities no longer meet criteria for the abuse icon, their health inspection rating will no longer be capped at two stars. More information on the abuse icon is found in the Health Inspection section of this document.

    Staffing Rating Changes:

    Beginning with the January 2021 refresh, facilities that did not report staffing for the November 14, 2020 deadline or that reported four or more days in the quarter with no registered nurse will have their staffing ratings suppressed. Their staffing ratings will show “Not Available” with the January, February, and March refreshes. Starting with the April 2021 refresh of Care Compare, when staffing data submitted by the February 14, 2021 deadline will be reported and used for the five-star ratings, nursing homes that do not report staffing data for October – December 2020 or that report four or more days in the quarter with no registered nurse will have their staffing ratings reduced to one star.


    Quality Measure Rating Changes:

    Quarterly updates of most of the quality measures (QMs) posted on Care Compare and used in the FiveStar Quality Rating System resumed with the January 2021 refresh. For the January 2021 update, CMS used data for July 2019- June 2020 for all of the measures that were updated. The two QMs that are part of the Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program (Percentage of SNF residents with pressure ulcers/pressure injuries that are new or worsened and Rate of successful return to home and community from a SNF) will not be updated in January 2021.

    January 2020 addition: Technical specifications for claims-based measures

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  • Considerations for Use of SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Testing in Nursing Homes (1/21)

    By CDC - January 16, 2021
    This document provides a summary of considerations for use of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) antigen testing in nursing homes and is intended for nursing home providers and state and local public health departments.

    Also see: Guidance for SARS-CoV-2 Point-of-Care Testing



    As of January 7, 2021

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  • FDA Alert: SARS-CoV-2 Viral Mutation Could Cause False Negatives on Tests, but Overall Risk Is Low (1/21)

    By FDA - January 11, 2021

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting clinical laboratory staff and health care providers that the FDA is monitoring the potential impact of viral mutations, including an emerging variant from the United Kingdom known as the B.1.1.7 variant, on authorized SARS-CoV-2 molecular tests, and that false negative results can occur with any molecular test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 if a mutation occurs in the part of the virus’s genome assessed by that test. The SARS-CoV-2 virus can mutate over time, like all viruses, resulting in genetic variation in the population of circulating viral strains, as seen with the B.1.1.7 variant. The FDA is taking additional actions to ensure authorized tests remain accurate by working with test developers and conducting ongoing data analysis to evaluate all currently authorized molecular tests. The FDA believes the risk that these mutations will impact overall testing accuracy is low.

    “The FDA will continue to monitor SARS-CoV-2 genetic viral variants to ensure authorized tests continue to provide accurate results for patients,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. “While these efforts continue, we are working with authorized test developers and reviewing incoming data to ensure that health care providers and clinical staff can quickly and accurately diagnose patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, including those with emerging genetic variants. At this time, we believe the data suggests that the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines may still be effective against this strain. The FDA will continue to keep health care providers and the public informed of any new information as it becomes available.”

    The FDA has been monitoring SARS-CoV-2 viral mutations, and potential impact on testing, throughout the pandemic. The presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants in a patient sample can potentially change the performance of a SARS-CoV-2 test. Tests that rely on the detection of multiple regions of the genome may be less impacted by genetic variation in the SARS-CoV-2 genome than tests that rely on detection of only a single region.

    Three currently authorized molecular tests, MesaBiotech AcculaTaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit, and Linea COVID-19 Assay Kit, may be impacted by genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2, but the impact does not appear to be significant. Importantly, the detection pattern that appears with the TaqPath and Linea diagnostic tests when certain genetic variants are present may help with early identification of new variants in patients to reduce further spread of infection. The recently identified B.1.1.7 variant has been associated with an increased risk of transmission, therefore early identification of this variant in patients may help reduce further spread of infection.

    The FDA has reminded clinical laboratory staff and health care providers about the risk of false negative results with all laboratory tests, including molecular tests. Laboratories should expect some false results to occur even when very accurate SARS-CoV-2 tests are used. Today’s announcement also provides important information and recommendations for clinical laboratory staff and health care providers who use molecular tests for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.

    The FDA will continue to communicate with the public as we have additional information to share. The FDA encourages stakeholders to report any adverse events or suspected adverse events experienced with molecular tests for detection of SARS-CoV-2. Voluntary reports can be submitted through MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program. Health care personnel and clinical laboratory staff employed by facilities that are performing COVID-19 testing should follow the reporting requirements for authorized laboratories as specified in the test’s Emergency Use Authorization. Prompt reporting of adverse events can help the FDA identify and better understand the risks associated with medical devices.


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  • CMS Online Platform for Submissions of 1135 Waiver Requests and Inquiries (1/21)

    By CMS - January 10, 2021

    • New Web Platform for 1135 Waivers and Inquiries – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing a new web-based tool to assist Medicare/Medicaid-participating providers and suppliers in submission of 1135 Waiver requests and inquiries. With very limited exception, the new web system should be used for all 1135 waiver requests and/or PHE-related inquiries submitted on or after January 11, 2021.

    • Waiver requests related to Physician Self-Referral (Stark Law) should not be submitted via the new web portal. For these requests, please visit: additional information.

    • This policy memorandum outlines the new changes to submission of 1135 Waiver requests/inquiries as well as resources available to providers and suppliers during the current COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) and future emergency events.

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  • CLIA Laboratories Surveyor Guidance for New and Modified CLIA Requirements Related to SARS-CoV-2 Test Result Reporting (1/21)

    By CMS - January 09, 2021
    Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) Laboratories Surveyor Guidance for New and Modified CLIA Requirements Related to SARS-CoV-2 Test Result Reporting

    Memo # QSO-21-10-CLIA

    Posting Date 2021-01-08

    Fiscal Year 2021


    • CMS is committed to taking critical steps to ensure America’s healthcare facilities continue to be prepared to respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency (PHE).

    • On September 2, 2020, an interim final rule with comment period (CMS-3401-IFC) was published in the Federal Register (85 FR 54820).

    • CLIA regulations have been updated to require all laboratories to report SARS-CoV-2 test results in a standardized format and at a frequency specified by the Secretary.

    • CMS is providing surveyor guidance for State Agency and CMS Branch Location surveyors related to the CMS-3401-IFC CLIA SARS-CoV-2 test reporting requirements.

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  • CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Toolkit for SNFs/NFs (1/21)

    By CDC - January 05, 2021

    Long-Term Care Facility Toolkit: Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccination at Your Facility

    Answering Common Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines

    This toolkit provides long-term care facility (LTCF) administrators and clinical leadership with information and resources to help build vaccine confidence among healthcare personnel (HCP) and residents. You play a critical role in providing trusted information and ensuring high COVID-19 vaccination coverage in your facility.

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  • Survey Readiness: Critical Element Pathways, Observations, Reviews, and Policy Calendar Tool

    By AADNS - January 04, 2021
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