February 23, 2021 | Net Health

3 min read

With Pandemic Processes in the Spotlight, What’s Next for SNFs Regarding PDPM?

The skilled nursing industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 challenges, with skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) reporting more than 100,000 deaths in 2020 alone.Combined with the recent shift to the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), SNF processes are now in the spotlight as patients, their families and public health officials look to improve operational outcomes in 2021.

While evolving expectations make SNF compliance a continually-moving target, three post-pandemic priorities include:

1. Monitoring Mental Health

PDPM frameworks are designed to improve both the value and quality of patient care by prioritizing clinical characteristics over therapy time totals. Pandemic pressures, however, have highlighted the difficulties in maintaining this standard of care during extended lockdown events as patients cut off from in-person familial support face increasing mental health challenges.

According to recent research from the University of Western Sydney and the University of South Florida, “preventing loneliness in institutionalized persons is at least as important as helping them with personal hygiene.

This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when residents must be protected from contact with other individuals to reduce the risk of infection.”2 As the slow shift into post-pandemic care conditions begins, SNFs will look for ways to both deliver on-demand connectivity and actively monitor patients’ mental health to meet PDPM expectations.

2. Managing Staff Stress

From long hours to lacking equipment and chronic issues around understaffing, skilled nursing employees are no strangers to stress.3 The COVID-19 pandemic, however, shed public light on this often private practice issue as SNFs struggled to keep pace with evolving infection vectors. 

Some states have already taken action to implement more stringent staffing requirements.4 But this is just the beginning — as vaccinations take hold and pressure begins to ease on SNFs, both patients and their families will prioritize providers that take staff stress seriously and ensure employees have the tools and training necessary to deliver consistent, patient-driven care.

3. Measuring Up to the Metrics

Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 within SNFs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is now seeking to implement a new measure that would compel public reporting of facilities’ rate of potentially avoidable healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) requiring hospitalization.5

If approved, this measure would provide improved visibility for patients and their families seeking skilled care by clearly indicating which facilities had the lowest number of HAIs — and therefore outpaced the competition in managing the spread of infections within care settings.

For SNFs, the increasing importance of publicly-available metrics tied to patient outcomes speaks to the need for processes that don’t simply meet current standards but exceed expectations. In a market driven by transparent, PDPM-based measurements, metrics matter more than ever.

Navigating the New Normal

PDPM and COVID-19 have fundamentally changed the skilled nursing framework. As a result, while 2021 represents a steady shift back toward more familiar operations, a return to “normal” isn’t possible — instead, SNFs in the spotlight must embrace the evolving expectations of mental health management, staff stress monitoring and metric-driven market forces.

Empower SNF operations with post-pandemic best practices that both meet evolving public health guidelines and deliver improved patient outcomes. Ready to get started? Download your copy of Net Health’s new eBook — What’s Left After PDPM and a Public Health Emergency Collide? — today.

What’s Left After PDPM and a Public Health Emergency Collide?

Helping SNFs navigate the regulatory challenges of 2021


1Skilled Nursing News, “Regulatory Reform, Quality of Life: The Top Nursing Home Trends of 2021,” January 4, 2021

2JAMDA, “Loneliness and Isolation in Long-term Care and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” May 7, 2020

3McKnight’s Senior Living, “Top 2012 senior living challenges: Clinical risk management upgrades, systemic understaffing issues,” January 7, 2021

4Skilled Nursing News, “Regulatory Reform, Quality of Life: The Top Nursing Home Trends of 2021,” January 4, 2021

5Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), “Draft Measure Specification: Skilled Nursing Facility Healthcare-Associated Infections Requiring Hospitalizations for the Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program,” September 2020.


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