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CMS Extends Time to Finalize Discharge Planning Proposal

By AJ Plunkett

If you were expecting to implement the latest discharge planning revisions to the Medicare Conditions of Participation soon, you can breathe a little easier for now. CMS took the unusual step on October 30 of announcing a year’s time extension to publish the final rule. The extension runs through November 3, 2019.

By federal regulation, such rules must be finalized and published with three years of proposal “except under exceptional circumstances.” In announcing the time extension for the final rule, which could have significant impact on hospitals and home health agencies, CMS noted that it received 229 comments after it first proposed the rule November 3, 2015.

“In this case, the complexity of the rule and scope of public comments warrants the extension of the timeline for publication,” according to the Federal Register notice published online October 30.

The rule, “Medicare and Medicaid Program; Revisions to Requirements for Discharge Planning for Hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals, and Home Health Agencies,” has been under review by CMS’ legal team since at least April, according to consultants and other officials.

CMS wants to coordinate with IT

CMS indicated that part of the delay was in order to collaborate with HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Among other things, CMS is proposing to “implement the discharge planning requirements of the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 (Pub. L. 113-185), that requires hospitals, including, but not limited to, short-term acute care hospitals, CAHs and certain post-acute care (PAC) providers, including long term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, HHAs, and skilled nursing facilities, to take into account quality measures and resource use measures to assist patients and their families during the discharge planning process in order to encourage patients and their families to become active participants in the planning of their transition to the PAC setting (or between PAC settings),” according to the extension announcement.

Based on information received from the public and other stakeholders, CMS says it needs more time to evaluate the impact of the proposed rule.

“The commenters presented procedural and cost information related to their specific circumstances, and the information presented requires additional analysis,” says CMS, adding that “we have determined that there are significant policy issues that need to be resolved in order to address all of the issues raised by public comments to the proposed rule and to ensure appropriate coordination with other government agencies.”

CMS Report: AOs missing fire safety and IC deficiencies during survey

Expect CMS to continue pressuring The Joint Commission (TJC) and other accrediting organizations (AO) to find more of the serious life safety, environment of care, and infection control issues the federal agency says they are still missing during surveys.

In the newest report to Congress assessing AO performance, CMS says the overall disparity rate between serious problems identified by the AOs at hospitals and those found by CMS surveyors within 60 days of survey was 46% in fiscal year 2016, up from 38% and 39%, respectively, in the two preceding fiscal years.

Most of those disparities were in infection control and physical environment, says the report. CMS is particularly concerned that AOs are missing key Life Safety Code® (LSC) deficiencies, with fire and smoke barriers, sprinkler systems, electrical systems, hazardous areas, and means of egress taking the top five categories for missed problems in fire safety at hospitals.

Hospitals already face funding challenges to meet fire code requirements after CMS finally adopted the 2012 LSC, and it will get even worse as survey scrutiny increases, predicts Ernest E. Allen, a former TJC surveyor and current consultant and patient safety executive with The Doctor’s Company in Columbus, Ohio.

This is on top of TJC’s response to criticism in the report released last year. TJC began pushing its own surveyors to cite every life safety deficiency, no matter how small, Allen says.

More on this topic can be found on

This simple tool predicts readmission risk for heart attack patients

By Christopher Cheney, HealthLeaders Media

A new risk model provides a simple and inexpensive way to determine whether acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients are at high risk for hospital readmission.

The risk model, which is detailed in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), features seven variables that can be scored in as little as five minutes during a patient’s first day of hospital admission. With a simple calculation at the bedside or in an electronic health record, physicians can determine whether a heart attack patient is at high risk for readmission and can then order interventions to help the patient avoid a return to the hospital after discharge.

Research published by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project shows that about one in six AMI patients are readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of discharge, with annual healthcare costs estimated at $1 billion. Targeting AMI patients who are at high risk of readmission also helps hospitals avoid financial penalties under the federal Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program and promotes cost-effective interventions, the JAHA researchers wrote.

“Although federal readmission penalties have incentivized readmissions reduction intervention strategies (known as transitional care interventions), these interventions are resource intensive, are most effective when implemented well before discharge, and have been only modestly successful when applied indiscriminately to all inpatients,” the researchers wrote. “The acute myocardial infarction READMITS score (renal function, elevated brain natriuretic peptide, age, diabetes mellitus, nonmale sex, intervention with timely percutaneous coronary intervention, and low systolic blood pressure) is the best at identifying patients at high risk for 30?day hospital readmission; is easy to implement in clinical settings; and provides actionable data in real time.”

The AMI READMITS risk model is superior to other models, they wrote. “The few currently available AMI readmission risk prediction models have poor-to-modest predictive ability and are not readily actionable in real time.”

Key findings 

The JAHA research, which examined health outcomes for 826 AMI patients at six hospitals in north Texas, has several key findings:

  • The AMI READMITS score accurately predicts which heart attack patients are at high risk or low risk of readmission. In the JAHA research, about one third of AMI patients that were deemed at high risk through the AMI READMITS score had a 30-day readmission. Only 2% of patients considered at low risk experienced a readmission.
  • The AMI READMITS score can accurately predict readmission risk during the first 24 hours of a hospital inpatient admission, which gives clinicians the ability to make timely interventions.
  • Clinical severity metrics such as shock, heart strain or failure, and renal dysfunction, as well as timely percutaneous coronary intervention, were strongly associated with readmission risk.

Why this model matters

Assessing the readmission risk of AMI patients during the first day of hospital admission is crucial, says Oahn Nguyen, MD, MAS, the lead author of the JAHA research and an assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “[The model] gives you more time to intervene and try to prevent someone from having to come back to the hospital. It gives you more time to optimize someone’s path to recovery,” she said.

She said development of the AMI READMITS risk model is the first step toward significantly reducing readmissions for AMI patients. “Studies of interventions to reduce readmissions for other conditions suggest that the earlier you can intervene, the better. One caveat is those interventions have yet to be assessed in acute myocardial infarction.”

The current primary strategy to prevent readmissions for heart attack patients is transitional care intervention, and the AMI READMITS score helps physicians target patients for this intervention, she said.

“Transitional care intervention is a bundle of care to promote a safe transition from hospital to home. One way I like to think of it is deploying a medical SWAT team in the hospital to make sure that everything you can do for a patient is being done to ensure the transition from the hospital to the community is as smooth as possible,” Nguyen said.

A “SWAT team” approach to care is often costly, so the capability of the AMI READMITS score to target patients who are at high risk of readmission improves the cost-effectiveness of care.

There are several primary elements to transitional care intervention:

  • Medication counseling to make sure AMI patients know how to take their medications
  • Making sure patients get their medications when they leave the hospital
  • Connecting patients with the most appropriate outpatient care, such as setting up clinic appointments
  • Conducting phone calls to patients’ homes to check on their health status after discharge

Major strengths of the AMI READMITS score include the risk model’s simplicity and low cost, said Nguyen. “Our goal in creating this model was creating something that was simple and pragmatic; so, it’s parsimonious because there are only seven variables that go into it. The seven variables are also information that is commonly and routinely collected during most hospitalizations.”

The AMI READMITS risk model does not require sophisticated support systems, Nguyen said. “In an age when there is a lot of hype about machine learning and big data, we were able to distill the big data of an electronic health record down to small, simple, parsimonious data that is easily applied at the bedside by clinicians.”

Plus, the time expense for the AMI READMITS risk model is minimal.

“It’s low cost because a clinician could look at our [research], then see how many of the seven factors a patient has in the hospital. You can literally spend less than five minutes summing up the points in the model scale, add them up, and determine whether a patient is at high risk or not. It does not take a fancy new IT infrastructure to implement,” Nguyen said.

Go Vote!

Today is Election Day, and we here at HCPro want to encourage all our readers to get out and vote!

The site below shows you where your local polling places are:

www.vote.org/polling-place-locator

 

 

Nurses Report Gaps in Quality and Safety Competencies Based on Education

By Jennifer Thew- 

While quality and safety measures are key to delivering excellent nursing care, new graduate nurses are not always adequately prepared in these areas, reports a new study by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Educational preparation appears to be tied quality and safety competencies. The study found there is a growing gap in preparedness in quality and safety competencies between new nurses with associate and bachelor’s degrees. Nurses with BSN degrees report they are “very prepared” in more quality and safety measures than their ADN peers.

“Understanding the mechanisms influencing the association between educational level of nurses and patient outcomes is important because it provides an opportunity to intervene through changes in accreditation, licensing, and curriculum,” Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, associate professor at NYU Meyers and the study’s lead author, says in a news release.

Nurses With BSNs More Prepared

For the study, the researchers examined quality and safety preparedness in two groups of new nurses who graduated with either associate or bachelor’s degrees in 2007 to 2008 and 2014 to 2015. They surveyed more than a thousand new nurses (324 graduated between 2007 to 2008 and 803 graduated between 2014 to 2015).

The nurses were asked how prepared they felt about different quality improvement and safety topics. The responses of nurses with ADNs and BSNs were analyzed for differences.

There were significant improvements across key quality and safety competencies for new nurses from 2007 to 2015, however, the number of preparedness gaps between BSN and ADN graduates more than doubled during this time.

In the 2007 to 2008 cohort, nurses with BSNs reported being significantly better prepared than those with ADNs five of 16 topics:

  • Evidence-based practice
  • Data analysis
  • Use of quality improvement data analysis and project monitoring tools
  • Measuring resulting changes from implemented improvements
  • Repeating four quality improvement steps until the desired outcome is achieved

Of the 2014 to 2015 graduates, those with BSNs reported being significantly better prepared than those with ADNs in 12 of 16 topics:

  • The same five topics as the earlier cohort
  • Data collection
  • Flowcharting
  • Project implementation
  • Measuring current performance
  • Assessing gaps in current practice
  • Applying tools and methods to improve performance
  • Monitoring sustainability of changes

How to Affect Change

“The evidence linking better outcomes to a higher percentage of baccalaureate-prepared nurses has been growing. However, our data reveal a potential underlying mechanism—the quality and safety education gap—which might be influencing the relationship between more education and better care,” Djukic, says.

Laws and organizational policies encouraging or requiring bachelor’s degrees for all nurses could close quality and safety education gaps, note the researchers.

New York was recently the first state to pass a law, often called the BSN in 10, requiring new nurses to obtain their bachelor’s degree within 10 years of initial licensure.

Additionally, nurse leaders and employers can affect change by:

  • Preferentially hiring nurses with BSNs
  • Requiring a percentage of the nurse workforce to have BSNs
  • Requiring nurses with ADNs to obtain a bachelor’s degree within a certain timeframe as a condition of maintaining employment

Hospitals Can Improve Their Infection Prevention Strategies, Study Finds

By Jay Kumar

A new review of 144 studies found that healthcare-associated infections (HAI) can be reduced by as much as 55% through the implementation of evidence-based infection prevention and control strategies. Published in the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America’s (SHEA) journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the study points out that hospitals can do much more to reduce infections.

“Healthcare-associated infections come at a considerable expense to patients and families, but also cost the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $9.8 billion each year,” said Keith Kaye, MD, MPH, president of SHEA, in a release. “There have been tremendous advancements in developing strategies to prevent and control HAIs. This study demonstrates a need to remain vigilant in identifying and maintaining key infection control processes to ensure they can be optimally used to prevent infections, which in some cases are life-threatening.”

The review was conducted by researchers from University Hospital Zurich and Swissnoso, the Swiss National Center for Infection Control, who examined 144 studies published worldwide (including 56 done in the U.S.) between 2005 and 2016 to determine the proportion of HAIs prevented through infection control interventions in different economic settings. The papers reviewed studied efforts designed to prevent at least one of the five most common HAIs using a combination of two or more interventions, including education and surveillance or preoperative skin decolonization and preoperative changes in the skin disinfection protocol.

The interventions produced a 35% to 55% reduction in new infections, the researchers found. The largest effect was for prevention of central line-associated bloodstream infections; other infections studied included catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and healthcare-associated pneumonia.

The study’s lead author, Peter W. Schreiber, MD, a researcher from the Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology at the University Hospital of Zurich, said the review’s results show that hospitals are not doing enough to fight infections. “Our analysis shows that even in high-income countries and in institutions that supposedly have implemented the standard-of-care infection prevention and control measures, improvements may still be possible,” he noted. “Healthcare institutions have a responsibility to improve quality of patient care and reduce infection rates by effectively implementing customized multifaceted strategies and improv[ing] patient outcomes.”

Patient Outcomes No Better For Joint Commission–Accredited Hospitals Than Peers

By John Commins

Hospitals that earn certification by independent accreditors, such as The Joint Commission, have no better outcomes than hospitals reviewed by a state survey agency, according to a new report in the BMJ.

“Furthermore, we found that accreditation by The Joint Commission, which is the most common form of hospital accreditation, was not associated with better patient outcomes than other lesser known, independent accrediting agencies,” the study concluded.

Researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health compared 4,400 hospitals across the United States, of which 3,337 were accredited, including 2,847 by The Joint Commission, and 1,063 hospitals that underwent state-based reviews between 2014 and 2017.

The study reviewed more than 4.2 million Medicare inpatient records for people ages 65 and older who were admitted for 15 common medical and six common surgical conditions, and respondents to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Provider and Systems survey.

“Hospital accreditation by independent organizations is not associated with lower mortality, and is only slightly associated with reduced readmission rates for the 15 common medical conditions selected in this study,” the study said.

Among the findings:

  • Thirty-day readmissions for The Joint Commission-accredited hospitals were 0.4% lower than those at hospitals that were reviewed by state survey agencies, which the researchers called “not statistically significant lower rates.”
  • Mortality rates for the six surgical conditions were “nearly identical,” and “no statistically significant differences were seen in 30-day mortality or readmission rates (for both the medical or surgical conditions) between The Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, and hospitals rated by other independent accreditors.
  • Readmissions for the 15 medical conditions “were significantly lower at accredited hospitals than at state survey hospitals (22.4% v 23.2%, 0.8% (0.4% to 1.3%), but did not differ for the surgical conditions (15.9% v 15.6%, 0.3% (−1.2% to 1.6%), the study found.
  • Patient experience scores were modestly better at state survey hospitals than at accredited hospitals. Among accredited hospitals, The Joint Commission did not have significantly different patient experience scores compared to other independent organizations.

While not the only hospital accrediting entity in the United States, the study authors note that private, not-for-profit The Joint Commission plays an outsized role, and controls more than 80% of the accreditation market as the accrediting agency of choice for nearly all major hospital systems.

“There was no evidence in this study to indicate that patients choosing a hospital accredited by The Joint Commission confer any healthcare benefits over choosing a hospital accredited by another independent accrediting organization,” the study concluded.

The Joint Commission could not immediately be reached Friday morning for comment.

Joint Commission Unveils New Emergency Management Checklist

On October 10, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, damaging at least two hospitals so badly they were forced to evacuate. On the same day, The Joint Commission (TJC) published a new Emergency Management Health Care Environment Checklist on its website, which helps healthcare organizations reopening their facilities after a disaster.

While the timing of these two events were coincidental, providers should to take time to go over the checklist and their emergency plans in general.

A TJC workgroup developed the checklist at the request of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. It aligns with the accreditor’s Emergency Management standards, covers both clinical and environmental issues, and addresses crucial post-disaster elements that need addressing before reopening. It should be noted that the checklist isn’t hurricane-specific.

Jim Kendig, TJC’s field director of Life Safety Code surveyors, says it’s critical that hospitals customize the checklist for their needs by examining the relationships they establish in the community, and at the regional and state levels.

“For example, in Florida, a county Office of Emergency Management met with utilities and other emergency support functions to determine hospitals and PSAPS [public safety answering points] are the first to receive power restoration,” he says. “Establishing an unidentified victims process is also a good start, as it the ability to share that information within an hour of a disaster event.”

“The Joint Commission’s Emergency Management Committee continues meeting with organizations after disaster events to glean important information to share with the field through our Environment of Care News and ongoing communications,” he adds. “This also give us the opportunity to ensure that our standards and elements of performance are effective and contemporary.”

Revisions deeming EPs

Starting January 1, five revisions to The Joint Commission’s Elements of Performance (EP) will go into effect. The revisions deal with the deeming in hospitals and critical access hospitals. The changes are a result of CMS’ review of The Joint Commission’s EP Review Project for the Leadership (LD) chapter.

Some of the changes include specifying that if hospitals provide emergency services that they comply with 42 CFR 482.55 and  that operating rooms have available a communications system that can summon staff outside the OR.

The affected EPs are:

• EC.02.03.01 EP 9

• LD.01.03.01 EP 13 (hospitals only)

• LD.04.03.01 EP 2

• LS.01.01.01 EP 1

• PC.02.02.03 EP 7 (critical access hospitals only)

• PC.03.01.01 EPs 5 and 8

You can read the prepublication changes to hospital and critical access hospitals here.

Accreditation Book Survey 2019

We’re working on books for 2019 and like to hear from you. Please take this short survey and let us know what safety topics or updates you’d like us to write about! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QTRWX8H