The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday finalized rules governing home health agencies aimed at improving the quality of health care services for Medicare and Medicaid patients and strengthening patients’ rights.

The Medicare and Medicaid Conditions of Participation set the minimum health and safety standards a home health agency must meet in order to participate in the federal programs.

Home health care allows patients to receive needed health care services ranging from skilled nursing to physical therapy to medical social services within their homes under the direction of their physicians.

More than 5 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries received home health care from nearly 12,600 Medicare agencies nationwide.

CMS says the final rule includes:

  • A comprehensive patient rights condition of participation that clearly enumerates the rights of home health agency patients and the steps that must be taken to assure those rights.
  • An expanded comprehensive patient assessment requirement that focuses on all aspects of patient well being.
  • A requirement that assures that patients and caregivers have written information about upcoming visits, medication instructions, treatments administered, instructions for care that the patient and caregivers perform, and the name and contact information of a home health agency clinical manager.
  • A requirement for an integrated communication system that ensures that patient needs are identified and addressed, care is coordinated among all disciplines, and that there is active communication between the home health agency and the patient’s physician(s).
  • A requirement for a data-driven, agency-wide quality assessment and performance improvement (QAPI) program that continually evaluates and improves agency care for all patients at all times.
  • A new infection prevention and control requirement that focuses on the use of standard infection control practices, and patient/caregiver education and teaching.
  • A streamlined skilled professional services requirement that focuses on appropriate patient care activities and supervision across all disciplines.
  • An expanded patient care coordination requirement that makes a licensed clinician responsible for all patient care services, such as coordinating referrals and assuring that plans of care meet each patient’s needs at all times.
  • Revisions to simplify the organizational structure of home health agencies while continuing to allow parent agencies and their branches.
  • New personnel qualifications for home health agency administrators and clinical managers.

The final rule can be viewed here.