Congress updated on AHCA’s Quality Initiative

Last July more than 400 healthcare leaders, professionals and direct care providers came to Washington to plead with Congress to stop federal funding cuts and reductions for skilled nursing facilities and the services they provide to seniors.

It was a fly-in sponsored by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), officials of which said their message to lawmakers was aimed at protecting access to quality care on behalf of 1.5 million individuals cared for in America’s skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.

On May 16, AHCA made another foray to Capitol Hill. But this time, instead of asking lawmakers for help, the organization’s officials had a much more positive message. They briefed some 50 congressional staffers and other officials on the association’s aggressive national quality effort—the Quality Initiative, which sets forth measurable goals to improve the quality of care in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), while also reducing government costs on health programs, such as Medicare.

The briefing was hosted by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Jim Matheson (D-UT) and attended by key congressional staffers whose advice and counsel is critical to the decision-making process of their bosses, the members of Congress. Attending for AHCA were President & CEO Mark Parkinson; Dr. David Gifford, MD, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs; Dirk Anjewierden, executive director, Utah Health Care Association; and Deborah L. Petrine, president/owner of Commonwealth Care of Roanoke, Inc., which operates 12 facilities in Virginia.

“The future health of our nation’s long-term care system is important to my constituents,” said Rep. Griffith. “The more my staff and other congressional offices can learn about this field of medicine and care, the better informed decisions we can make here in Washington.”

“Generating savings while improving the quality of care remains one of the greatest challenges in healthcare,” noted Rep. Matheson. “Unfortunately, the path we have been on has focused on across-the-board cuts that affect a provider’s ability to deliver services, and threatens patients’ ability to access care. We need to focus on targeting efficiencies within the system, and hearing from stakeholders is important to that end.”

Parkinson said the AHCA’s Quality Initiative demonstrates how the skilled nursing profession is improving lives by offering solutions, and said member facilities are making significant progress in meeting the Quality Initiative’s goals and objectives.

The Quality Initiative has these primary goals:

  • By March 2015, reduce the number of hospital readmissions, which now stands at one-in-four persons admitted to SNFs by hospitals, by 15 percent.
  • By March 2015, increase the percentage of customers who would recommend the facility to others up to 90 percent.
  • Increase staff stability by reducing turnaround among all nursing staff by 15 percent by March 15, 2015.
  • By December 2013, safely reduce off-label use of antipsychotics by 15 percent.

AHCA announced that at the end of the third quarter of 2012 nearly 25 percent of its member facilities had already reached the three-year goal of reducing 30-day hospital admissions by 15 percent. This followed a May 5 announcement that member companies have already achieved an average 6.7 percent reduction in the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs in 2012, nearly halfway to the 15 percent goal.

“When we rolled out these Quality Initiative goals last year, we knew they were ambitious,” said AHCA Board Chair Neil Pruitt, Jr. “While we may not have reached our 2012 year-end goal for antipsychotics, that doesn’t negate the nearly 3,000 member facilities that have achieved our goal nor, more importantly, the 11,349 individuals living with dementia who will enjoy a better quality of life without these medications.”

“AHCA is confident we can continue this momentum and will reduce the use of antipsychotics by 15 percent before the end of this year,” said Dr. Gifford.

Bob Gatty has covered governmental developments for the trade and business press for more than 30 years. He is founder and president of G-Net Strategic Communications, Sykesville, Md.    

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