By Stephen Tweed
It’s the call you dread. “The surveyors are in the lobby.” Responding to a state survey is one of the most difficult and intimidating experience a new agency administrator faces. But it doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience. There are some things you can do to get ready, and some things you can do during the survey to make it a positive experience for you and your agency.
Whether or not you agree with the Federal, State, and local laws regarding home health care and hospice, or the standards for accreditation set by The Joint Commission, CHAP, or ACHC, they are mandated and must be followed. Surveys are designed to determine whether or not patient needs are being met, and whether or not your agency is meeting the Conditions of Participation for Medicare or Medicaid.
You can make the survey process an asset for your agency by meeting and exceeding the standards. Use the survey process as a tool to make your agency more productive, more patient centered, and more profitable.
1. Remove the Fear … Start off on the right foot! Educate your receptionist and office staff about the nature and purpose of a survey. Remember that a pleasant greeting is the best way to start every survey visit.
2. Act as if you have had a survey before. In other words, follow the words of the great sales trainer who teach, “Fake it until you make it.” Develop a focused plan to be ready for the survey when it happens. It’s inevitable. Put together a “Survey Binder” with all of the information you will need to respond to the surveyor. Keep it up to date.
3. Hospitality 101: The Proper Care and Feeding of Surveyors. Have a place set aside for the surveyors when they come. Make sure they are comfortable and have the resources they will need for their day (s) in your office.
4. Remove the Mystery. Ask what type of survey is being conducted. Be prepared for each type of survey … State Licensure, Medicare Survey, Medicaid Survey, Complaint Survey, Follow Up Survey, Accreditation Survey.
5. Who’s Looking? Information about your organization that has been reported to Medicare or Medicaid is readily available to surveyors. Be familiar with the information that is available about your agency.
6. Study the Regulations. The time invested in getting to know the regulations backwards and forwards is time well spent. Since these rules are constantly changing, it’s important that you have at least one member of your team whose job is to keep up to date with all federal, state, and local regulations as well as accreditation standards.
7. There’s Always Room for Improvement. View the surveyor as someone who can be helpful in providing input for your quality management team. Your agency and the surveyor have many of the same goals; ensuring that patients receive the highest quality care, and meeting the COPs.
8. Avoid the Easy Deficiencies! The best way to be deficiency free is to have systems in place to make sure that you are always ready to meet the regulations and standards. Without solid systems in place, things fall through the cracks.
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9. Control your Growth. It is not unusual to see out-of-control behavior in home health agencies that want to grow quickly. While growth is a good thing, controlling the rate of growth is important to make sure you do not outpace the capabilities of your people and your processes.
10. Find your Niche. Think outside the box. Don’t do what everyone else is doing in your local marketplace. Look for opportunities to stand out from the crowd, and focus in the specific needs of a narrow segment of the market.
For more tips, techniques, and strategies to survive the surveyor, you will want to order a copy of the 3rd edition of Nancy’s book, Survivor! Ten Practical Steps for Survey Survival.