Hospitals Must Track, Report Staff Covid-19 Vaccination Rate


August 5, 2021 9:23 pm

Hospitals will be required to track and report Covid-19 vaccination status for their health-care personnel to comply with a rule from the Biden administration.

The requirement, contained in a wide-ranging hospital payment rule (RIN 0938-AU44, 0938-AU56), is an effort to “support public health tracking and provide patients, beneficiaries, and their caregivers important information to support informed decision making,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Hospitals are required to report certain quality measures to the CMS or they risk losing funding. The rule, finalized Aug. 2, asks hospitals to report data each quarter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network’s surveillance system beginning with the period that starts Oct. 1, 2021.

Health-care groups have mounted pressure on the industry to require vaccination of medical staff as the delta variant sparks more Covid-19 deaths and infections. While the CMS’s reporting requirement is not a vaccine mandate, it seeks “to incentivize and track” vaccination to reduce Covid-19 transmission and protect staff, patients, and caregivers.

Increased vaccination among hospital staff could lead to an increase in patient uptake, the CMS said. The measure will also give patients, including those in high-risk groups, a more complete picture of hospital vaccination rates as they decide where to receive care.

‘Needs Further Refinement’

Hospitals will report the vaccination rate of their staff at least one week each month to comply with the new quality measure. The agency requires this reporting for anyone who gets a direct paycheck from a hospital, even if they don’t see patients.

The CMS asks for just one week of data—”a reliable snapshot”—in recognition of “the time and resources that hospitals would need to report the data,” the agency said.

Before the rule was released, some commenters expressed concern with the tracking requirement given that the vaccines haven’t been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Commenters also opposed a vaccine requirement.

The CMS responded that hospitals wouldn’t be “held directly accountable for a particular outcome.” The agency doesn’t expect the quality measure to lead to universal vaccination among hospital staff. The tracking requirement is meant to help hospitals see whether their approaches to increasing vaccination rates are working.

The new quality measure “needs further refinement to ensure it accurately reflects hospitals’ progress in vaccinating their workforce,” Stacey Hughes, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, said in a statement.

The measure “was adopted on an unusually accelerated pace,” and the AHA expects it will need to be tweaked as hospitals start to report data, AHA Director of Policy Akin Demehin said in a separate statement for Bloomberg Law. Information about the vaccine’s efficacy—including length of immunity and the potential need for booster shots—continues to evolve, which “could significantly change how hospitals collect and report measure data,” Demehin said.

“We are concerned about the potential for confusion and inconsistent reporting among hospitals if CMS needs to make sudden shifts in measure specifications,” Demehin said.