Information Bulletin, April 1998


SPARCS 1997 Data Submissions
36 Track Cartridges
Year 2000 News
Internet News
Reporting Issues

SPARCS 1997 Data Submissions

Most facilities are well on their way toward being in compliance with the SPARCS submission requirement that 100% of their 1997 discharges be reported by June 30, 1998, or 180 days from the end of the fiscal year. To date over 2.2 million inpatient and over 1,000,000 ambulatory surgery claims have been posted to the 1997 master files. Data submitters still experiencing difficulties meeting submission deadlines are urged to contact SPARCS to discuss their individual situation and arrange a mutually agreeable submission schedule. The SPARCS Administrative staff has already begun contacting those facilities with probable submission problems. Facilities are to be congratulated for their ongoing efforts to submit accurate and timely data to SPARCS.

36 Track Cartridges

Until recently, SPARCS was able to process data submitted on cartridge tapes created only on 18 track drives. It is now possible to submit data to SPARCS on 36 track cartridge tapes. To do so, however, it is necessary that the cartridge is standard label (SL) and clearly marked on the exterior as a 36 track tape. The internal volume serial number written on the tape label must not begin with any of the following letters: "A", "B", "E", "J", or "V".

Year 2000 News

The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) EMC Version 5 format (developed to accommodate millennium issues for submission of Medicare claims) has been published, and will be available for use October 1, 1998. The Universal Data Set (UDS) Specifications will be updated to be consistent with the HCFA Version 5 format, and the SPARCS implementation schedule will be synchronized with the Medicare schedule. Updates to the UDS Specifications and the SPARCS documentation will be posted on the SPARCS Web site later this spring, and the associated hard copy documentation will then be available upon request.

Based on the value reported in the Version Code field in Record Type 01 (004, 041, or 005) SPARCS will process submissions using the designated format. As our development continues implementing this millennium-ready claims submission format, more detailed instructions will be published on our Web site and in future bulletins.

Internet News

The SPARCS Web page entitled "Annual Reports" no longer links to the Department of Health's Gopher site. Tables in text file format now replace the gopher tables and can be imported into spreadsheets if desired. Tables from the 1994 - 1996 Annual Reports are included. In the near future, narratives from these reports will also be available.

Downloads of the 1994, 1995, and 1996 Annual Reports in WordPerfect are now available on the SPARCS Web page entitled "Software/Documentation Downloads". Both the narratives and tables are included. Anyone not having Internet access may still request a copy of the published two-volume sets either in hard copy or on diskette by contacting the SPARCS Administrative Unit.

This month updated audit counts have been posted on our Web site including the first four months of 1998.

The SPARCS programming staff are currently developing a way to submit hospital discharge data using Web-based technology. It will be similar to the E-mail Preparation System (EPS) in that data files can be sent, but it will use a secured Internet mailing system rather than PCMAIL. More information will be available in our next bulletin.

Reporting Issues

Questions have been raised from SPARCS data submitters concerning the coding of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), a.k.a. Rural Primary Care Hospitals (RPCH). As with the RPCH, CAHs must at least have a formal affiliation with a support hospital(s) for patient referral and transfer and the provision of emergency and non-emergency transportation among the facilities. CAHs may not provide more than 15 acute care inpatient beds. If the facility has a federal swing bed agreement at the time it converted from a full service hospital to a CAH, any of the 15 acute care beds may utilized for the provision of post-hospital skilled nursing services. In addition, up to ten additional beds, for a total facility maximum of 25, may be used for the provision of extended care services (i.e., post-hospital SNF care without the ability to swing acute).

The length of stay for acute care patients may not exceed 96 hours, unless transfer is precluded because of inclement weather or other emergency conditions, except that a peer review organization may, on request, waive the 96-hour restriction on a case-by-case basis. Ideally, patients that are determined to need more than four days inpatient care are referred to the support hospital. Those found to need a length of stay longer than 4 days, or more extensive services following admission must be transferred to an affiliated hospital (i.e., unless a waiver has been granted). These facilities licensed under the New York State Public Health Law as general hospitals are paid on a cost basis for Medicare and Medicaid rather than DRG.

The number of Critical Access Hospitals is expected to increase as this program evolves. Currently, there are four existing rural primary care hospitals that will convert to CAHs and two other facilities undergoing certificate of need review. Another six to ten rural hospitals are seriously exploring the possibility of converting to a CAH. The four existing RPCHs that will soon convert to CAHs include:

Community General Hospital - Grover Herman Division
Cuba Memorial Hospital
Elizabethtown Community Hospital
Salamanca Health Care Complex

The source of admission from any of these facilities should be coded "A" for Transfer from a Rural Primary Care Hospital.