Five tips on finding an MDS coordinator

Filling an MDS coordinator position can be a daunting task. There are numerous factors to consider when hiring someone for the job. The wrong hire can cause a huge financial decrease, high risk for audit, and take months if not years to correct. Below are five keys to filling this difficult position:

1.Make sure when interviewing an MDS coordinator candidate that you pose questions to ensure the individual is intimate with RUG categories and financial implications. Do they understand the financial implication of PPS and Medicaid? Your MDS coordinator must have a good understanding of all the variables and factors that impact your RUG’s and reimbursement. Minor oversights of understanding of the PPS rules, such as ARD selection date, can cost your facility thousands of dollars for services that were rendered in your facility.

2. The MDS Coordinator candidate should be meticulous with their work. There are over 1,000 elements on an MDS and 108 of those elements depict one of 53 RUG categories. Even the best MDS coordinator will miss financial opportunities. If your new hire is not organized and/or not constantly monitoring their case load then you will quickly see a drop in your rates, putting your facility at risk of future denials.

3. Does your future MDS coordinator stay on top of the ever-changing rules and regulations? Being an MDS coordinator is a hard job where the rules and regulations are always changing—and this year will be twice as hard with MDS 3.0 and RUG’s IV coming out. If you are currently interviewing potential MDS candidates then find out how they are now pro-actively preparing for these changes. Nursing homes should be putting systems and strategies in place to prepare for the MDS 3.0 implementation date of October 1, and the MDS coordinator along with your DON should be responsible for implementing these changes.

4. Work ethic is a vital characteristic of a good MDS coordinator since they constantly have to monitor not only the residents but also the staff to ensure compliance and accurate reimbursement. They also must be on top of any rule changes and then put in the appropriate systems and training for these changes. The MDS coordinator also must be go out of their way to teach and talk to staff about the residents. Staff should understand Medicare Entitlement and Skilling to ensure the patient is getting the appropriate care. The coordinator must be sure staff is coding accurately. To properly case manage each resident and effectively do their job, an MDS coordinator must be able to effectively work with rehab and nursing. This is vital to ensure they get the necessary coding and documentation from the staff so the MDS can accurately reflect the services rendered and the nursing home can be reimbursed for said services.

5. Lastly, you want your new MDS coordinator to be a team player with a personality to fit in with the rest of your staff. It is important for other staff members to be part of the hiring process to ensure the new hire is a good cultural fit so you aren’t going through the process of filling another MD coordinator opening a few months down the road. You may even lose other staff members due to the wrong hire.

John Routhier is director of sales and marketing at Harmony Healthcare International, a long-term care consulting firm specializing in reimbursement and MDS. For more information, visit

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