All posts by Amy E. McCracken

Top Three Problems with Text Messaging in Health Care Settings

1. Since most text messaging is not a secure form of communication, it raises HIPAA concerns if any protected health information is included in the text message. There is the possibility of a data breach in the transmission of the text message, as well as in the event of a lost or stolen phone.

2. Relevant information about a patient may be omitted from the patient’s medical chart if it is communicated via text message. Text messages are difficult to print or archive, resulting in the information being lost or deleted. This can have adverse consequences in the patient’s care due failure to communicate important information regarding the patient to everyone who needs the information.

3. Important evidence may be lost, resulting in adverse consequences in the event of a lawsuit. Any time a lawsuit is anticipated, all relevant evidence must be preserved, including text messages. However, since the messages reside on individual employees’ phones, they may be omitted from the document preservation efforts, or accidentally (or intentionally) deleted by the employee. Such loss of evidence could result in the court’s imposition of an “adverse inference,” meaning that the jury must determine that lost evidence would have been adverse to the health care facility (even if that is not true).

The safest course is to ban text messaging in a health care setting. Health care facilities which allow the use of text messaging should implement policies and procedures to ensure that they avoid these problems.

Antipsychotic Drug Use Can Lower Nursing Home’s Five-Star Rating

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is continuing its efforts to reduce the national prevalence of antipsychotic drug use in long-stay nursing home residents. Its initial goal of a 15.1% reduction in antipsychotic drug use was met, so CMS now seeks to reduce antipsychotic drugs by 25% by the end of 2015 and 30% by the end of 2016. The national average of antipsychotic drug prevalence was 19.8% in early 2014.

CMS has been publishing each facility’s antipsychotic drug use on the Nursing Home Compare web site. Now in 2015, as further incentive to nursing homes, CMS will use antipsychotic drug use as a factor in calculating each facility’s Five-Star Rating.  A low Five-Star Rating can have a direct impact on a facility’s census and profitability.

Nursing homes need to develop strategies to reduce antipsychotic drug use. They cannot depend upon physicians to change the drug orders; they need to partner with physicians to develop creative approaches for treatment. Each resident should be thoroughly evaluated to determine the root cause of behaviors that trigger the use of antipsychotic drugs. Frequently, the undesirable behaviors are caused by an unmet need. Once the need or cause is determined, individualized, person-centered approaches can be developed to prevent or respond to the behaviors. This is the beginning of a new year, now is the time to start some new interventions to reduce antipsychotic drug use and enhance your Five-Star Rating.