Healthcare Tech & Better Food Targeted in New Regulations for Skilled Nursing Facilities

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In the world of healthcare, the era of quality-based reimbursement is here to stay — and if proposed changes to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pass, long-term care facilities will have even more incentive to invest in care improvements for their residents. These proposed changes were presented last week at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging and are relevant to any senior care facility looking to remain competitive over the coming decades.

Once implemented, this legislation should have a significant and positive effect on a large population of Americans. There are 125 million elderly, disabled, or low-income Americans currently participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. And out of all the residents in the nation’s 15,000 long-term care facilities, the majority are Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

When a family decides to put a loved one in a long-term care facility, they’re putting a tremendous about of trust in that institution — trust that their loved ones’ health, safety, and quality of life will be top priorities for its staff, from the executive level all the way down to entry-level nursing assistants. But how exactly will these new regulations fundamentally change how long-term care facilities operate?

A Commitment to Healthcare IT

Senior care leaders have been facing pressure to adopt new technology for years, but these new changes — the first major updates to the conditions of CMS participation since 1991 — aim to solidify healthcare IT and other patient care enhancements as a priority.

Specifically, skilled nursing facilities will face more stringent rules on the use of electronic health records (EHRs), which can help providers cut costs and save time producing patient’s health records. Previously, skilled nursing facilities were not included in subsidization programs designed to incentivize EHR usage. Now, facilities will have perhaps the biggest incentive of all on the line — CMS payments.

However, it’s important to note that these proposed changes are just that — proposed. So naturally, many patient advocacy organizations are working to further improve these regulations. The LeaderAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) is one of them. They’re pushing for action requiring providers to be even more technologically equipped.

“From a technology perspective, we will be advocating for CMS to identify incentives to ensure that all providers, including smaller and rural providers, have the right health IT tools in place, as well as the opportunity to actively participate in meaningful exchange of health information,” said the group’s executive director, Majd Alwan, Ph.D.

Putting Residents First

The new proposed regulations reach beyond healthcare technology. Other changes required for CMS payments in the proposal include:

  • Greater family involvement in the care planning and discharge planning processes;
  • Strengthening infection control protocols;
  • Minimizing the use of medications like antibiotics and antipsychotics, in an effort to reduce readmissions;
  • More involvement from consultant pharmacists in developing medication therapy plans for residents; and,
  • Improved standards for dining — specifically, offering a wider variety of foods made with higher quality, local ingredients.

These new proposed regulations should be seen not as a burden on long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, but rather, as a “help us help you” strategy to patient care improvement. Whether it’s EHR usage, patient monitoring technology, better meals, or more evidence-based medication regimens, these potential regulations all have the same goal — to improve the lives of residents and their families.

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