The internet Quality Improvement and Evaluation System (iQIES) marks a transformative and digital shift in healthcare communications. This initiative by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ushers in a new era of cost-effective, secure, and quality-driven patient care.
The iQIES is a much-needed upgrade over its two-decade-old predecessor, the Quality Improvement Evaluation System (QIES). QIES was a complex network of nearly a dozen applications, compounded with 53 individual state and territory databases, making it challenging for users to extract actionable information. This infrastructure overhaul was critical, considering the system’s daily use by hundreds of thousands of users, including regulators, policymakers, and consumers.
The implementation of iQIES has brought about numerous improvements and changes to the healthcare space. For starters, the platform leverages Amazon Web Services (AWS) to transform the legacy QIES into a cloud-based system, delivering an intuitive user experience for stakeholders. Another notable aspect of iQIES is its interactive interface, which features dashboards that visualize data over time, enabling the CMS to monitor trends and identify areas for improvement.
As a result of these advancements, thousands of healthcare providers and surveyors across the U.S. are using iQIES daily to assess patient well-being and facility safety across multiple care settings, including home health agencies, in-patient rehabilitation facilities, long-term care hospitals, and hospices.
iQIES also incorporates features for patient assessment data, survey analysis, reporting, and quality measures. In addition, it further synergizes with the redesigned data.cms.gov, significantly enhancing data transparency.
Transitions and role changes
The transition to the iQIES system began in May 2021, with the State Survey Agencies (SSAs) and CMS locations switching from the legacy systems, QIES, CASPER, and ASPEN. Initially, the system was provided to Home Health Agencies (HHAs), with the full release of all Survey & Certification (S&C) capabilities completed nationally by October 2021.
A landmark moment came on April 17, 2023, when the CMS transitioned to iQIES for Minimum Data Set (MDS) record submissions and reports. Users of the new system are expected to establish credentials through the HCQIS Access, Roles and Profile (HARP) system before gaining access to iQIES.
Users can request, generate, and view reports from their established HARP role. All new modifications or inactivation records must now be submitted in iQIES, even if the original record was accepted into the QIES ASAP system.
The implementation of iQIES also means a reshuffling of roles and responsibilities. For example, State Survey Agency roles in iQIES will now include:
- State Agency Security Official (SASO)
- State Agency General User (SAGU)
- State Agency Assessment Coordinator (SAAC)
As for the iQIES roles available to CMS users, they include:
- CMS View Only User
- CMS General User and
- Office of Financial Management (OFM) User
Each of these roles carries specific responsibilities and access levels, with access only granted after approval from a State Agency Security Official.
Redefining healthcare interactions through iQIES
The iQIES is poised to be a game-changer for the CMS, as it equips the organization with a wealth of insights to ensure that patients receive quality care in line with their expectations. Furthermore, it provides a mechanism for holding providers accountable for failing to meet such expectations.
While the CMS continues to transition more data into iQIES, providers are urged to consider automation to improve workflows and accuracy. For example, robotic process automation could significantly reduce the time spent connecting to the iQIES system, uploading, and waiting for validation results. And this necessity for streamlining technical processes is expected to be highlighted even more prominently with the forthcoming significant MDS coding changes, including the potential addition of 80 more fields.
The introduction of iQIES marks a turning point in healthcare communications, offering an efficient, modernized, and user-friendly system that is set to redefine CMS interactions. Meanwhile, as the CMS continues to innovate and adapt to the ever-evolving digital landscape, providers must stay ahead of the curve, maximizing the benefits of iQIES for improved patient care. The future of healthcare communication is here, in the iQIES.
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