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Brian Ward

Brian Ward is an Associate Editor at HCPro working on accreditation news.

Join our last Accreditation Specialist Boot Camp of 2016

The final HCPro Accreditation Specialist Boot Camp of the year is coming up fast. Sign up now for your last chance to learn from instructor Jean S. Clark, RHIA, CSHA, who has more than 30 years of real-world experience and expertise in regulatory and accreditation compliance. The final boot camp will be December 12-14 in Orlando, Fla.

We call it a boot camp because it’s focused, in-depth training and when you finish the class, you’ll be an accreditation expert and ready to handle whatever your organization needs, such as:

  •   Identifying organizational weaknesses to improve survey results
  •   Knowing which regulations are applicable to your organization
  •   Interpreting accreditation standards and regulations
  •   Maintaining organizational readiness and identify vulnerabilities
  •   Implementing continuous survey readiness plans
  •   Coordinating site visits
  •   Identifying future trends likely to affect organizational compliance
  •   Responding to survey results, findings, and Requirements for Improvement

The Accreditation Specialist Boot Camps provide in-depth explanations of CMS and Joint Commission requirements, and briefly cover HFAP and DNV standards if students are accredited by those bodies. Instructors focus on teaching participants how to integrate continuous survey readiness into daily operations. Plus, you will leave with an entire catalogue of tools, templates, and resources that you can use at your organization.

Unique features of this Boot Camp include:

•    Custom-designed course materials: All course materials were custom developed for the Boot Camp’s intensive learning format
•    Take-home tools: Head home armed with customizable tools that will save you time
•    Hands-on teaching methods: Each course module includes exercises that are reviewed and discussed in class
•    Small class size: The number of participants is limited to retain a low student-teacher ratio
Sign up today!

Study: Link between CMS hospital star ratings and socioeconomic factors

It’s been almost five months after CMS publicly released its hospital star ratings system amidst widespread controversy and opposition. Now, a new study by WalletHub has provided evidence that hospitals’ ratings are highly linked to their location and socioeconomic factors.

CMS LogoEver since CMS announced the star system, many had argued that it was biased against facilities that treat impoverished, sicker patients. To study this, WalletHub looks at the ratings of 657 hospitals in 150 cities across the U.S. comparing ratings to each city’s “stress level,” a composite of stressor caused by work, money, family, and health and safety. Star Rating

Hospitals in Detroit and Newark, N.J. (the first and ninth most stressed cities) earned an average of 1.5 and one stars respectively. However, hospitals in the California cities of Fremont and Irvine (the least and second-least stressed cities) earned an average of three and five stars, respectively. Meanwhile, CMS reports that safety net hospitals earn slightly lower ratings on average compared to non-safety net hospitals (2.88 to 3.09 stars).

“When we look at hospital quality ratings and rankings, what we are seeing has less to do with what the hospitals themselves are doing and more to do with the communities they are located in and the patients they serve,” said David Nerenz, co-author of the study and the director of the Center for Health Policy and Health Services Research at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, to Modern Healthcare. [more]

CMS releases potential reporting measures

CMS last week released a list of 97 reporting measures for hospitals, clinician practices, nursing homes, dialysis facilities, and other settings. The measures are being considered for use in Medicare’s quality and value-based purchasing programs.

This year, 39% of the measures focus on patient outcomes, while the remainder focus on patient safety, cost, and appropriate use of diagnostics and services. There was also an increase in measures submitted by specialty societies. CMS annually publishes a list of potential Medicare quality measures to hear back from patients, clinicians, payers, and purchasers on the which measures they think are the best. CMS is teaming up with the National Quality Forum (NQF) for the sixth year in a row on this effort. The feedback the NQF collects will be sent to the multi-stakeholder Measure Applications Partnership (MAP) for consideration.

“We invite you to review the Measures under Consideration List in detail and to participate in the public process during the MAP review,” wrote Kate Goodrich, MD, MHS, CMS director of the Center for Clinical Standards & Quality, in a blog post. “We believe it is critically important to hear all voices in the selection of quality and efficiency measures that are used for accountability and transparency purposes and look forward to another successful pre-rulemaking season. We are committed to working with patients, clinicians, and others on how to best measure the quality and value of care while reducing burden on providers and driving improved outcomes for patients at lower costs.”

The proposed measures are available on CMS and NQF websites, and comments on can be made until 6 p.m. on December 2 at the NQF website.

Mental disorders and substance abuse are the top U.S. health condition

In its newest Health Index, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) found that mental disorders are the chief cause of shortened longevity and health in America. The top five conditions cause about 30% of commercially insured Americans’ overall reduction in optimal health, and are as follows:

1. Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
2. Hypertension
3. Diabetes
4. High cholesterol
5. Substance use disorders

The BCBS Health Index compares 200 different conditions using millions of BCBS claims, along with healthcare costs and global burden of the disease to find out which ones have the largest impact on American’s quality of life and health.

American Psychiatric Association (APA) President Maria A. Oquendo, MD, PhD, told Medscape that the report, “highlights the impact of mental health and substance use disorders on people’s health and quality of life and reinforces the importance of making access to quality mental healthcare for all a national priority.”

Joint Commission updates ASC survey process

Starting January 1, two-thirds of ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) using the Medicare-deemed option may receive adjustments to their Joint Commission survey team structure and survey length. The Joint Commission is doing this as part of an effort to better align with CMS surveyor guidelines. Onsite survey fees for qualifying ASCs will be adjusted to reflect the number of surveyors on site and the length of the survey. The goals of this are to:

  • Give surveyors more time for a thorough evaluation of the clinical component of ASC Medicare-deemed surveys
  • Give surveyors time to cover and complete both Joint Commission and CMS requirements, patient tracers, review medical records and credentialing files, and CMS-required worksheets
  • Share leading practices with ASCs and produce a more meaningful, educational, and consultative experience
  • Create a survey team that has two clinical surveyors (in majority of survey events) who are able to work together in real-time to maintain consistency of interpretation
  • Better prepare ASCs for their CMS state survey

The Life Safety Code® component of the survey will remain unchanged (one surveyor for one day) unless circumstances call for additional time.

Organizations with questions on the changes are asked to speak with their Joint Commission account executive.

Report: Mayo Clinic suggests nine ways to prevent physician burnout

The high rate of burnout and unengaged physicians and nurses is an increasing concern for the healthcare industry. Burnout is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced effectiveness. It’s also a proven influence on care quality, patient safety, physician turnover, and patient satisfaction. However, industry attempts to engage with physicians have been haphazard at best. The Mayo Clinic recently released a new paper on preventing burnout, emphasizing the need for individual physicians and hospital leaders to work together on this problem.

“The reality is that an engaged physician workforce is requisite to achieving institutional objectives, that small investments can have a large impact, and that many effective interventions are cost neutral,” wrote John Noseworthy, MD, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, and Tait D. Shanafelt, the Mayo Clinic’s director of the program on physician well-being, in the report.

1. Admit there is a problem and then assess it: Provide your medical staff with many opportunities to talk about the problems they face. These discussions can be done in many different formats: town halls, radio broadcasts, face-to-face meetings and video interviews. Use these discussions to measure engagement and satisfaction with work-life integration each year.

2. Identify physician leaders: Healthcare leaders must look for physicians with the ability to listen to, engage, develop, and lead physicians. But then the organization must help develop and train these leaders. Staff should also be given a chance to evaluate their physician leaders. [more]

Joint Commission releases prepub standards for comprehensive cardiac center

The Joint Commission has released prepublication standards for its comprehensive cardiac center (CCC) advanced certification program. The certification is optional and evaluates healthcare organizations’ eligibility to qualify as a CCC. The standards and EPs go into effect on January 1, 2017.

Study: 50 million patients suffer postop complications worldwide, 1.5 million die

A new study found that out of the 310 million surgery patients who receive surgery every year, 50 million suffer postoperative complications and more than 1.5 million die from those complications. Surprisingly, patients in low- and middle-income countries were less likely to experience complications than those in high-income nations.

The study was the first of its kind at the international level, and was conducted by the International Surgical Outcomes Study Group, led by Queen Mary University of London’s Professor Rupert Pearse and published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia (BJA). Researchers used data on 44,814 patients who underwent surgery within the same seven-day period, comparing different types of surgery with the frequency and severity of adverse outcomes. The patients came from 474 different hospitals in 27 different countries, ranging between high income (U.S., U.K., Germany) and low income (Uganda, Brazil, Romania.)

In a press release, Pearse called on hospitals worldwide to work towards reducing preventable complications.

“There is still a great deal of work to be done to improve patient care around the time of surgery,” he said. “Initiatives such as that led by the Royal College of Anaesthetists Perioperative Medicine programme provide excellent examples of what can be done to resolve these problems.” [more]

AMA releases new guidelines for clinical mobile health apps

During a recent meeting, the American Medical Association (AMA) released new guidance for clinicians on mobile health (mHealth) apps. With the number of health apps growing exponentially, the guidance is meant to help clinicians determine coverage and payment policies for apps providing useful care quality data. The guidance specifically looks at apps that support patient-centered care delivery, care-coordination, and team-based communication.

“The new AMA principles aim to foster the integration of digital health innovations into clinical practice by promoting coverage and payment policies that are contingent upon whether mHealth apps and related devices are evidence-based, validated, interoperable and actionable,” said Steven Stack, MD, AMA’s immediate past president in a press release.
While addressing mHealth apps coverage and payment issues, the guidance addressed the need for apps to:

• Support the patient-physician relationship
• Have a clinical evidence base validating their safety and effectiveness
• Follow evidence-based practice guidelines to ensure patient safety, quality of care, and positive health outcomes
• Ensure that the delivery of any services via the app conform to state practice laws

The AMA is currently working with several health IT companies and organizations to develop technologies and applications that better serve patient care. In its announcement, the association warned that the liability issues for mHealth apps are unclear and physicians should work with their legal teams before promoting or using an app.

These guidelines come several months after The Joint Commission announced that it had reversed its ban on texting medical orders. The accreditor and CMS said they are collaborating on a set of FAQs and had originally hoped to publish their additional guidance by September.

Joint Commission lists 2017 National Patient Safety Goals

The Joint Commission has published a list of the hospital National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) that will go into effect on January 1, 2017. The new goals include:

  • Improving patient identification
  • Improving communication effectiveness amongst caregivers
  • Improve safety of using medications
  • Reducing the harm associated with anticoagulant therapy
  • Medical reconciliation

The document also includes the rationales and Elements of Performance for all the goals.