Hospitals in the United States will be experiencing broad reaching changes this year with proposals by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). The new regulations governing Discharge Planning are anticipated to take effect by October or November and are currently in comment review by CMS.
A summary of what we see as the most impactful changes are threefold.
1. All hospitals will be required to apply the discharge planning process to every patient including inpatients, outpatients under observation status, outpatients with sedated procedures or surgery, and emergency department patients that need a discharge plan.
2. All patients will now require a discharge evaluation, not just those at risk for readmission or complications.
3. A new requirement which can challenge complex systems and communication strategies, is that within 48 hours the discharge plan must be sent to the PCP or provider identified to be responsible for follow up care, with test results being made available within 24 hours of availability. Another big change in discharge planning aimed at reducing re-admissions, is a proposed regulation to require all hospitals, including Critical Access, to develop a follow up process after patients return home.
In addition to the changes in practice, is the new design standard that requires that all hospitals discharge planning processes be documented in writing and approved by the organizations’ governing body. Strategies to ensure compliance with the goal of better patient care, value based care, and reduction in readmission rates will be at the heart of the planning for the implementation of these new regulations.