Ding!


A client just received their certification report and it was good but not deficiency free as they had been in the past.  The reason?  Although the risk factors for hospitalization were pulled from the OASIS assessment, they were not identified on the Plan of Care as risk factors for hospitalization.  The interventions were similarly not tied to the risk factors even though they did address them.  The DON reported that she talked to a friend at another agency and learned that the other agency had received the very same tag.  Coincidence or survey trend?  Time will tell.  For now, smart agencies will go with ‘survey trend’ as their final answer.

The Condition of Participation is §484.60(a)(2).  It reads:

(2) The individualized plan of care must include the following:

  1. All pertinent diagnoses;
  2. The patient’s mental, psychosocial, and cognitive status;
  3. The types of services, supplies, and equipment required;
  4. The frequency and duration of visits to be made;
  5. Prognosis;
  6. Rehabilitation potential;
  7. Functional limitations;
  8. Activities permitted;
  9. Nutritional requirements;
  10. All medications and treatments;
  11. Safety measures to protect against injury;
  12. A description of the patient’s risk for emergency department visits and hospital re-admission, and all necessary interventions to address the underlying risk factors.
  13. Patient and caregiver education and training to facilitate timely discharge;
  14. Patient-specific interventions and education; measurable outcomes and goals identified by the HHA and the patient;
  15. Information related to any advanced directives; and
  16. Any additional items the HHA or physician may choose to include.

This is a new requirement included in the 2018 Conditions of Participation.  It’s something that (hopefully) has been done by agencies in the past but risk factors haven’t always been labeled.  The requirement is consistent with the CMS goal of avoiding unnecessary admissions.

There are no instructions on how to do this.  Prior to the final regulations, the proposed regs suggested stratifying patients as high, medium or low risk.  That was omitted from the final rule.  From the 2018 CoPs:

While there may be benefits to establishing more inter-HHA consistency in the application of this requirement, we do not believe that those benefits would outweigh the cost of reducing HHA flexibility and innovation to determine the best possible way to achieve the overall goal of reducing unnecessary emergent care visits and hospital admissions.

The OASIS question that examines risk factors for hospitalization is M1033 reads:

(M1033) Risk for Hospitalization: Which of the following signs or symptoms characterize this patient as at risk for hospitalization? (Mark all that apply.)

  •  History of falls (2 or more falls – or any fall with an injury – in the past 12 months)
  •  Unintentional weight loss of a total of 10 pounds or more in the past 12 months
  •  Multiple hospitalizations (2 or more) in the past 6 months
  •  Multiple emergency department visits (2 or more) in the past 6 months
  •  Decline in mental, emotional, or behavioral status in the past 3 months
  • Reported or observed history of difficulty complying with any medical instructions (for example, medications, diet, exercise) in the past 3 months
  •  Currently taking 5 or more medications
  •  Currently reports exhaustion
  •  Other risk(s) not listed in 1–8
  •  None of the above

Additionally, M1036 looks at smoking, obesity, alcohol dependency and drug dependency.  There is a falls risk assessment which may score high in patients who have not fallen in the last 12 months such as those who had a recent hip replacement.  Depression is assessed and is known to impair recovery in most illnesses and conditions but is not included in the question specific for risk factors unless it has an onset within 3 months.

Some of the most dangerous risks to our patients are not captured by OASIS at all.

  • Elderly patients living alone in a rural area
  • Patients unable to afford or prepare food; may have frequent interruptions in utilities due to financial limitations.
  • Transportation or willing caregiver to pick up medications.
  • Functionally illiterate patients

It is possible that drawing in some information from OASIS might meet the condition, but it may not serve the patient.  On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that you would be hit with a survey deficiency if you included risk factors that were based on a full assessment even if they are not included in the OASIS assessment.

You won’t find many interventions to address isolation, depression and lower socioeconomic status in care pathways for other conditions, but they are equally as important for some patients as falls precautions which are ordered for pretty much everyone.  It may cost a little more but in the long run, lower hospitalization rates will correspond with higher margins.

The CoP’s mandate that care plans include patient risks for hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits and corresponding interventions to mitigate the risks.  Since you must do it, make it meaningful.

Contact us if you need help setting up a system for this or if you would have us review your careplans for you.

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Don’t Archive Your Agency


When the list of documentation required by AdvanceMed  for UPIC audits included a complete Medicare census, we were confused; or rather, we thought they were confused. Surely they can get their own lists based on any number of databases.
A report by the Office of the Inspector General reveals they are not confused. The OIG has noted that 9 of 28 agencies reviewed had discrepancies between Medicare data derived from claims and Casper and the list provided to surveyors at the time of state survey. It is this list that surveyors use to choose patient’s and they were not inclusive of all patients Medicare has on their lists.
Occasionally a difference of one or two patients can be explained. Many times a ‘missing’ patient is a typo -sloppy but not fraud. Changing out computer systems can be messy. Yet, when an agency presents a list to surveyors that is 150 patients light, equal to 90 percent of their patients, a very bad outcome is lurking on the horizon. Active patient lists that are incomplete ensure that absent patients are not visited by surveyors. In some cases, patients were omitted from the unduplicated census resulting in surveyors being unaware that the patient existed.
The OIG has arrived at the conclusion that while there are many possible reasons for these omissions, some agencies might be deliberately trying to avoid scrutiny for the omitted patients. Honestly, do you feel just a sorry for the OIG because they are only just now arriving at this conclusion?
The OIG also noted that patients were discharged from one agency on the day that the roster was requested by surveyors eliminating them from the ‘active patient’ list. These same patients were readmitted later in the year with no intervening events or claims from other providers such as hospitals, rehab facilities or other home health agencies. There are references a prior report that found frequent discharges and readmissions were often characteristic of fraudulent agencies.
The OIG suggests a couple of possible solutions to ensure that the list given surveyors has not been manipulated by the agency.
  • Instead of using an agency provided list, arm surveyors with a claims list provided by CMS
  • Spot check by asking an aide or a nurse about their patients and determine if all of those patients are on the agency provided lists.
  • Monitor the person in the agency who is running the list from the computer. Doesn’t this sound like fun for both the surveyor and the agency?
  • Conduct a retrospective review post survey using Medicare claims or Casper data.
Obviously you are not going to manipulate patient lists but it will instill confidence in surveyors if you are able to provide accurate information in a short period of time. Because surveys are unscheduled, multiple people should be trained to:
  • Run an active patient list
  • Run an unduplicated census (list of all patients regardless of the number of times they have been admitted. Each patient will be listed only once).
  • Run a duplicated census (the name of every admission regardless of whether the patient has been admitted more than once. This list is longer than the unduplicated census list.)
  • Speak intelligently about any potential flaws in your data and offer a work around. (Your biller should be able to provide a list of RAPs dropped or a referral log from the computer)
I know that agencies have rushed to ‘archive’ records of patients that who don’t have anything good to say about the agency and records that might be train wrecks due to documentation errors or poor care. Surveyors are very much aware that these patients exist. All agencies have at least one or two.
Unless care is egregious, state surveyors will allow the agency to provide a corrective action plan. If the deficiency is a repeat or widespread throughout the agency, you may be subject to financial sanctions and a hold on admissions until corrections are implemented and verified by the state agency.  It’s embarrassing to be certain but rarely fatal.
If you provide false information to the surveyors, you have crossed a line into a whole new level of non-compliance. Your Provider Agreement has been violated and you are at risk for losing your agency’s license or worse. And yes, there are consequences worse than being shut down because you have no license to operate.
Most agencies want to do the right thing. Knowing that the agency down the street with patients who do not need care or are not homebound and yet has a perfect survey while your agency has five or six deficiencies has been known to boil the blood of nurses but at least they know where to focus attention.
The agency that hides patients from surveyors now has a very real chance of being caught.  Depending on how patient lists are compared, it may take a while, too, contributing to insomnia.  If you have archived patients to avoid scrutiny, consider keeping a current passport handy. This could be fun.

 

Survey Readiness


Because you are bright and shiny home health employees with enthusiasm to spare, it goes without saying that you are ready for survey all day, every day.  But just in case you fell behind, here’s a few tips on being ready when those cheerful surveyors come calling.

  1. Make sure your annual advisory meeting is held timely. There is nothing you can do when it’s time survey and your PAC meeting is six months late.
  2. Get your CLIA waiver updated if it within three months of expiration. If it is current, put the expiration date on your calendar with a reminder three months from the date.
  3. Plans of care for all patients should be current and updated and reflect the actual needs of your patients – not just what the computer thinks.
  4. Medication lists should be current. Obviously, you and your colleagues are checking meds on every visit but just in case it never hurts for the DON or QA nurse to spend an afternoon doing supervisory visits and checking medications.  If meds are okay, relax.  If you find errors, implement an agency wide plan to have the meds of all patients reconciled within a week.   After the initial medication campaign, follow up.
  5. Do the QA thing. At a recent Home Care of Louisiana meeting, the state agency responsible for whipping home health agencies in line gave a presentation about what they were finding on surveys.  Although tags were not frequently issued for Quality Assurance plans, almost every other tag could have been prevented by reading notes as they came into the agency against the plan of care.  Consider the difference between seeing a missed visit cross your desk compared to a chart with numerous missed visits.  You must read your charts if you want to know what is in them.
  6. Most importantly, call the physician.   Almost every survey with deficiencies includes at least one tag resulting from a change in the patient’s condition that was not communicated to the physician.  I have spoken with nurses who are unwilling to call physicians because they have been chastised in the past for ‘bothering’ physicians.  Communication is not the same as harassment.  If you reserve phone calls for emergent situations and fax or secured email for updates, everyone can be on the same page without overwhelming the physician.
  7. Consider a coding company. Although the primary purpose of The Coders is to ensure correct ICD-10 codes and OASIS responses, a registered nurse reviews the clinical records to determine what those codes and responses should be.  So, while we don’t specifically look for QA indicators, we notice the more serious omissions and make note of them for the agency.  Another side effect of a Coders contract is that our coders notice when assessments are incomplete or late.  Getting caught up can make an enormous difference for agencies with a backlog.

Notice what is not on the list.  There is no minimum standard for face-to-face encounters.  Surveyors may comment about excessive lengths of stay but rarely is a tag issued for redundant teaching or failure to provide reasonable and necessary services.  The state agencies do not pay your bills.  The hoops you must jump through for payment are in addition to the minimum standards for your state.

Some of you may know some people at an agency that is utterly unprepared for state survey.  If this is a long-standing problem, there is probably not much they can do in a short period.  On the upside, in the absence of patient harm and extreme irresponsibility on the part of the agency, the state will allow for an opportunity to clean up any messes in the form of an action plan.  Or they can pay a consultant to come in and have them write an action plan.  We prefer the latter but you won’t receive an invoice from the state surveyors.  Just saying.

Here’s what you don’t do.  Don’t call a consultant in the weeks before survey is due and expect them to make the changes required for a flawless survey.