Honking for Hugs #CareNotCOVID

With the restrictions on visitors, several communities across the country have gotten creative showing appreciation for patients and residents by coordinating “Honk for Hugs” events in a reverse parade fashion.

Forest Hills Care and Rehabilitation, Broken Arrow, OK

The Forest Hills Care and Rehabilitation team in Broken Arrow, OK participated in two community parades, which allowed the patients and residents to see friends and family from a safe distance.

Let’s recognize the team:

Rachel Blanchard DOR
Dianna Sunday PT
Rebecca DeVilliers OTR
Chelsea Holmes OTR
Shannon Pinson SLP
Kelsey Farragher SLP
Saundra Fite PTA
Tara Stephenson PTA
Katie Forler PTA
Candice Ertman PTA
Michelle Kellam COTA
Kimberly Luu COTA

Cottonwood Creek Healthcare Center, Richardson, TX

Cottonwood Creek Healthcare Center in Richardson, TX held a Honk for Hugs event with patients and residents. The patients and residents had so much fun!

CareCore at Westmoreland, Chillicothe, OH

CareCore at Westmoreland’s therapy team in Chillicothe, OH decorated and had patients participate in a “Honk for Hugs” event where the community showed how much they cared for the facility patients and residents.

Let’s recognize the team:

Angie Nartker PT
Kelly Davidson SLP
Crystal Steele PTA
Amanda Karr PTA
Jill Burton COTA
Penelope George PTA/DOR

When Will We Begin Seeing Medical Review Audits Following the COVID-19 PHE?

While it is still unclear at this time when we will begin to see normal audit activity resume from traditional Medicare entities, some Managed Care companies have lifted their suspensions and may have resumed normal auditing practices as early as May 15, 2020. Humana released a memo on May 14, 2020 stating the following

“Given that health system capacity is opening up and procedures are increasing steadily, we will begin to resume some of the regular processes that we suspended on April 1, 2020, to support providers with the strain on the healthcare system posed by COVID-19 at the heart of the crisis…The first of these is for medical record requests for claim reviews, which we will resume effective May 15, 2020.

  1. Resuming pre-payment medical record claims review. As of May 15, Humana may begin to request medical records from your organization prior to issuing payment, consistent with our policy in place prior to the April 1 suspension.
  2. Resuming post-payment medical record claims review. Since April 1, Humana has not requested medical records in connection with our post-payment review process. Our post­ payment claims review team will now resume making requests for medical records as required, consistent with our policy in place prior to April 1.

Humana leaders will continue to monitor service volumes as well as the progression of the COVID-19 curve and recovery and will review our policies and procedures as necessary as this crisis evolves.”

Please be prepared to start seeing these requests again in the coming days and weeks and notify your Medical Review/Appeals department as soon as possible. It is highly possible that there will still be barriers to obtaining medical records timely and extensions may need to be requested. We are all in this together and are happy to assist in any way possible.

Updated MDS 3.0 Item Sets v1.17.2 and Technical Data Specifications

In response to State Medicaid Agency and stakeholder requests, CMS has updated the MDS 3.0 item sets (version 1.17.2) and related technical data specifications.  These changes will support the calculation of PDPM payment codes on OBRA assessments when not combined with the 5-day SNF PPS assessment, specifically the OBRA comprehensive (NC) and OBRA quarterly (NQ) assessment item sets, which was not possible with item set version 1.17.1.  This will allow State Medicaid Agencies to collect and compare RUG-III/IV payment codes to PDPM codes and thereby inform their future payment models.

For more information, visit MDS 3.0 Technical Information page. Supporting materials including the 1.17.2 Item Change History report and the revised 1.17.2 Item Sets can be accessed in the file:  MDS 3.0 Final Item Sets v1.17.2 for October 1 2020 zip, also posted in the Downloads section of the MDS 3.0 Technical Information page.

Delayed: Release of Updated Versions of SNF Assessment Instrument

CMS has delayed the release of the updated versions of the Minimum Data Set (MDS) needed to support the Transfer of Health (TOH) Information Quality Measures and new or revised Standardized Patient Assessment Data Elements (SPADEs) in order to provide maximum flexibilities for providers of Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) to respond to the COVID-19 Pubic Health Emergency (PHE).

The release of updated versions of the MDS will be delayed until October 1st of the year that is at least 2 full fiscal years after the end of the COVID-19 PHE. For example, if the COVID-19 PHE ends on September 20, 2020, SNFs will be required to begin collecting data using the updated versions of the item sets beginning with patients discharged on October 1, 2022.

For more information, visit CMS’ SNF Quality Reporting Program Training page.

CMS Releases Toolkit for Nursing Homes

CMS has released a toolkit to aid nursing homes, governors, states, departments of health, and other agencies who provide oversight and assistance to these facilities, with additional resources to aid in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic within nursing homes. Access the toolkit here.

The toolkit is comprised of best practices from a variety of front line health care providers, Governors’ COVID-19 task forces, which provide a wide range of tools and guidance to states, healthcare providers and others during the public health emergency.

The toolkit is comprised of best practices from a variety of front line health care providers, governors COVID-19 task forces, associations and other organizations, and experts, and is intended to serve as a catalog of resources dedicated to addressing the specific challenges facing nursing homes as they combat COVID-19.

View the full press release from CMS here. The toolkit can be accessed here.

CMS Issues Guidance to Ensure the Safe Reopening of Nursing Homes

After President Trump revealed Guidelines for Opening Up America Again on May 18, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new guidance for state and local officials to ensure the safe reopening of nursing homes across the country.  State leaders are encouraged to collaborate with the state survey agency and local health departments to develop a plan on how these criteria should be implemented.

CMS recommends that decisions on relaxing restrictions in nursing homes be made with careful review of the following facility-level, community, and state factors:

  • Case status in community
  • Case status in the nursing home(s)
  • Adequate staffing
  • Access to adequate testing
  • Universal source control
  • Access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff
  • Local hospital capacity

Reliant’s Real Time Memo on this topic can be accessed here.

CMS’ guidance can be accessed here.

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document can be accessed here.

or questions or concerns related to this memo, please email the DNH Triage Team.

Connection Through Video Chat

As the country continues to take a proactive, preventative approach to reduce the spread of COVID-19, social distancing and visitor restrictions in long-term care challenge us to use alternative means for connecting patients, family members/responsible parties, and long-term care staff.  On March 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes (Revised) stating:

“In lieu of visits, facilities should consider offering alternative means of communication for people who would otherwise visit, such as virtual communications (phone, video-communication, etc.)”1

When choosing to use video communication, the US Department of Health and Human Services provides guidance regarding which video communication platforms are safe to use and which are not. For example, FaceTime and Skype* are classified as non-public facing remote communication products while TikTok, Facebook Live, and Twitch are public-facing products.  Public-facing products are not acceptable to use. 

When video chatting, be mindful of the following:

  • Obtain proper authorization for use or disclosure from the resident/patient/responsible party.
  • Make reasonable efforts to ensure others, not authorized to participate in the video chat, cannot hear the discussions.
  • Ensure other patients are not in the background of the video chat to prevent unauthorized use or disclosure of that individual.
  • Confirm the party answering the video chat is the appropriate party before proceeding with discussions.
  • Be sure when ending video chat that it successfully ends so that other conversations or videos are not accidentally seen or overheard.

*FaceTime and Skype means of communication are not supported by HIPAA regulations outside of the current healthcare emergency. The Office of Civil Rights states:

“Health care providers may use popular applications that allow for video chats, such as FaceTime and Skype, to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules related to the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.” 

1 https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-14-nh-revised.pdf


Implementation Strategies: Trauma-Informed Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic introduces unique considerations related to patient-specific care plans, the execution of trauma-informed care (TIC) and the implementation of protocols to prevent disease transmission allowing for the continued provision of quality care.  In order to incorporate TIC, each patient’s unique history, specifically those relevant to the current environmental demands, should be addressed with strategic care planning. 

Interdisciplinary teams must help alleviate the unintended consequences of social isolation and source control strategies (i.e. face mask use) while in pursuit of infection control.  Now, more than ever, we must be familiar with our residents and newly admitted patients, their histories, potential triggers and preferences in order to develop and employ patient-specific TIC successfully. 

Consider the following strategies:

  1. Determine the health literacy of each resident/patient and provide education concerning infection control and prevention at their level of understanding to the diminish potential for new trauma
  2. Adapt protocols as necessary and modify care plans accordingly to prevent re-traumatization.
  3. Provide patients reassurance as often as necessary that protocols in place are in their best interest.
  4. Address needs for a sense of normalcy by developing new routines, roles, and habits. 
  5. Mitigate the psychosocial effects of isolation through creative implementation of activities to promote socialization and engagement.
  6. Utilize technology to facilitate connections with family and friends, when possible.

There are no shortages of avenues for success with TIC, but communication is critical for them all.  At its core, TIC requires communication with the patient and their designated representative for historical knowledge and care plan updates. It takes each member of the interdisciplinary team offering specific insight resulting from their familiarity with the patient, to develop a thorough and comprehensive care plan for the individual that accomplishes preventing traumatization or re-traumatization.  Do not diminish the explicit value each member brings as their contribution may very well be the one to enable positive patient outcomes. 

Strike Out Against Potentially Devastating Brain Attacks

Learn the three types of risk factors for stroke. While you may not be able to change them all, there are still ways to stack the odds in your favor.

Non-modifiable risk factors

• Age    

• Gender    

• Race/ethnicity

Modifiable risk factors

• High blood pressure                                   

• Lack of exercise

• Smoking                                                                  

• Diabetes

• High cholesterol                                                     

• Atrial fibrillation

• Sickle cell disease                                                   

• Obesity

• Alcohol abuse                                                         

• Drug abuse

• Presence of other cardiovascular disease

Harder to change or possible indicators

• Obstructive sleep apnea                                        

• Migraine

• Certain infections                                                   

• Gum disease

• Blood markers like factor V Leiden, lipoprotein(a) or others

Stroke Awareness and Prevention