HHS: Hospitals Must Now Report Flu Data and COVID-19 Numbers

Healthcare Dive

Hospitals now must send CMS their seasonal flu data alongside COVID-19 data or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding, senior officials announced at a press conference Tuesday.

Beginning Wednesday, hospitals will receive notice whether they are in line with current reporting requirements, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. They will be issued guidance on how to correct course and then given 14 weeks, or four notices, to do so.

CMS in August issued an interim final rule mandating hospitals send their COVID-19 data to federal agencies or risk losing funding, swiftly chided as “heavy-handed” by the American Hospital Association. AHA said this announcement answers some of the questions posed since the initial rule, and excludes psychiatric and rehabilitation hospitals, which generally do not treat COVID-19 patients, from reporting.

HHS wants to know how many COVID-19 cases, influenza cases and days on hand of personal protective equipment hospitals have — or it will revoke federal reimbursement.

Those data points and a slew of others will be used to direct federal resources to hospitals and communities in the highest need as influenza season and the COVID-19 pandemic clash, HHS Ambassador Deborah Birx said during a Tuesday call with reporters.

A harsh flu season coinciding with continued hot spots of novel coronavirus activity could respark concerns of hospital capacity that surfaced in the beginning of the crisis.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said while the agency has always collected seasonal flu data, the new requirements will “give us a fuller picture of what is happening hospital to hospital regarding influenza.”

“It is uncertain what will happen this fall and winter,” Redfield said. “However, CDC is preparing for there to be a COVID-19 and seasonal influenza activity at the same time. As Americans spend more time indoors this fall and winter, and people start going back to work and school, the risk of flu and COVID will only rise.”

Earlier into the pandemic, HHS sent out one-time data requests to hospitals to aid in distribution of remdesivir and other needed treatments or supplies. HHS said in a fact sheet that the daily reporting is now the sole mechanism for distribution calculations heading into winter.

Hospitals already must submit reports on COVID-19 testing, capacity and utilization under the August rule. Now they must submit daily data on total hospitalized patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza, previous day’s influenza admissions and total ICU patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza. They’ll also have to submit numbers on total hospitalized patients with both laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and influenza, and previous day’s deaths for patients with both COVID-19 and influenza.

The guidance on reporting can be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/covid-19-faqs-hospitals-hospital-laboratory-acute-care-facility-data-reporting.pdf