RICHMOND, Ind. – A regional collaborative project for quality improvement in long-term care facilities has succeeded in reducing hospitalizations related to healthcare acquired infections by 38 percent over four months and saved more than $240,000 in Medicare expenses, according to a recent release from Reid Health.
The project was led by Reid Health and funded by a grant from the Indiana State Department of Health with technical assistance by the Center for Aging and community of the University of Indianapolis.
The Community Care Connections Collaborative, made up of 16 regional skilled nursing facilities and Reid Health, grew out of an extended care facility group established in 2012 that was already in place when the a state grant became available.
“This seemed like the next step, and a natural progression, to move our existing coalition into a collaborative for process improvement,” said Billie Kester, Continuum of Care Director for Reid Health. Only seven collaboratives were funded by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Kester said the effort’s success has helped improve the quality of life for patients and reduced health care costs at the same time. “The goal of the collaborative is to improve the quality of care for residents in skilled nursing facilities,” she said.
The grant required the collaborative to complete two quality assurance and process improvement projects over 18 months, stipulating that the first one be about reducing health care acquired infections. Kester said organizations were invited to a kick-off meeting in early 2015, and more got involved along the way. The group has organizations involved from eight regional counties, including Wayne, Fayette, Henry, Union, Franklin and Randolph counties in Indiana, and Preble and Darke counties in Ohio.
The project’s success involved several specific team and education efforts, including implementation of the “Stop and Watch” program, a tool for skilled nursing facilities. This program encourages all staff members, from environmental and engineering to nursing assistants and therapists, to alert someone when they notice changes in a resident.
Tonya Nunez-Smith, Health Facility Administrator at Pine Knoll Rehabilitation Center in Winchester, said participants have the same goals, though in various communities in the region. “It is great networking so we can actually get to know one another,” she said, “to hear from the hospital what the concerns are and then collaborating with each other.”
Nunez-Smith said the project and the communication has helped get everyone working more closely together, sharing ideas and concerns and coming up with solutions that improve care for their patients. She said if a patient in her facility can avoid a hospitalization, it is better for them and for their loved ones. “They don’t have to go out, we can take care of them right here.”
Kester said the next phase of the project will address staffing stability. The collaborative is gathering data to determine a baseline that will help gauge where to focus efforts and what goes to set for improvement.
For patients and families needing skilled nursing care, Kester said one good question to ask when choosing a facility is its dedication to quality initiatives and whether it is part of such a collaborative.