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April 19, 2016

Update Regarding DPH Increased Oversight of Long-Term Care Facilities

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At the April 13, 2016 meeting of the Department of Public Health (DPH) Public Health Council, the Commissioner presented an update on DPH’s recent efforts to improve oversight of the Massachusetts long-term care industry. In a previous post, we described changes that went in to effect on April 11, 2016 with respect to the imposition of fines for deficiency findings, as well as enhanced review of proposed facility changes of ownership. In addition to discussing those new processes, the Commissioner outlined the following areas where progress has been made.

Supportive Planning and Operations Team (“SPOT”)

A key component of DPH’s oversight initiatives involves the creation of a Supportive Planning and Operations Team (“SPOT”). The team will be tasked with identifying underperforming nursing homes, performing unannounced visits and providing expert advice and support to facilities in process and quality improvement, plan development and implementation. The SPOT team also will assist facilities in developing an “improvement module” to address quality of care issues such as the prevention of falls and healthcare-associated infections, proper medication administration and high-quality care for residents with memory impairment. DPH expects SPOT to be operating by July 2016.

Increased Staff and Training

DPH hired an additional 19 inspectors and 7 program staff in order to increase facility inspections in coordination with SPOT. With the recent hires, DPH now has 77 long-term care inspectors. Given that DPH has not been fully-staffed for some time, the Commissioner remarked that they have yet to develop the structure of how inspectors will be assigned to particular areas or facilities. The current plan is to wait until DPH is fully staffed, at which point they will review capacity to ensure inspectors are deployed in the most efficient and effective manner. At present, there are 10 additional vacant positions which DPH is working to fill.

Information Transparency

DPH’s nursing home data and complaints web pages were redesigned to be more accessible, with topical links regrouped for improved consumer navigation and a simplified URL: www.mass.gov/dph/nursinghomes. At the suggestion of one Council member, DPH also will likely add links to the CMS nursing facility rankings page and information on long-term care ombudsman program.

About the Author

Crystal Bloom

Crystal Bloom is a partner and a senior healthcare regulatory attorney in Donoghue Barrett & Singal's Health Law group. She provides state and federal regulatory guidance and corporate legal services to healthcare providers. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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