grandparents-closeupClaims data, billing codes and quality improvement plans are among the common tools used by Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) staff as they seek new and innovative ways to achieve better healthcare, improved health, safer care and lower healthcare costs. Increasing awareness and encouraging self-management through health observations such as Patient Safety Week, March 10-16, are opportunities to look beyond the spreadsheets, virtual meetings and daily task lists and consider personal impact.

While employees of the healthcare industry, staff members are also patients and caregivers. People whose true passion for improving health and quality of life comes from knowing the numbers and percentages are their family and friends.

Nancy McDonald and her dadNancy McDonald, RN, BSN, CPHQ, director of quality improvement for Great Plains QIN shared, “Patient safety is important to me in that it gives me comfort to know that staff is taking all of the necessary precautions to prevent an injury when taking care of the most influential man in my life, my father. I am personally engaged in patient safety through my role in continuous quality improvement efforts with hospitals, clinicians and Medicare beneficiaries.”

A recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that nationally 33 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced temporary harm and/or adverse events during their nursing home facility stay and 59 percent of those adverse events and temporary harm events were clearly or likely preventable.

“I am also engaged in being an advocate for my father in his healthcare journey as well as for other family members, including my children,” added McDonald. “There are many things that we can achieve by being an advocate for our loved ones. It really is the simple things that can make all of the difference, like educating staff on certain preferences of your loved ones, communication techniques your loved one may use that may be different, being their voice when they aren’t able to speak and identifying when things ‘just don’t seem right’.”

All Cause Harm Prevention in Nursing Homes ToolkitAs a program manager working primarily with nursing homes in South Dakota, Lori Hintz, RN, promotes education and best practices to ensure patient safety.

“While there is no single, magic bullet to prevent all causes of harm to residents, there are some best practice strategies. I recommend my nursing home colleagues check out the recently released All Cause Harm Prevention in Nursing Homes Toolkit. It is a free downloadable resource that focuses on the successful practices and approaches of nine high-performing nursing homes across the nation and is full of ideas, tips and strategies!’

Reducing unnecessary antipsychotic medication for those with dementia is one of the focus areas Hintz emphasizes within the South Dakota Nursing Home Quality Care Collaborative. The work is creating impact as antipsychotic medications usage in South Dakota nursing homes have decreased by nearly 11 percent from December 31, 2013 to September 30, 2018.

Lori Hintz“My passion for promoting quality and safety for those with dementia stems from seeing my Grandma Claire afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. My passion for working with nursing homes stems from my Grandma Edna and father-in-law who resided in a nursing home for several years,” Hintz explained. “Antipsychotic medications are powerful and should be used cautiously as they can cause severe side effects, including death and stroke. They are also known to contribute to an increase in falls, iconfusion and drowsiness, incontinence and abnormal eating, to mention a few.”

Individual responses to treatment including medication can vary. Engaging caregivers and family members ensures safer care and improved quality of life. “The impacts of being an advocate for your loved one regarding patient safety are endless,” McDonald emphasized. “It could prevent a fractured bone or head injury by preventing a fall, it could prevent a death due to sepsis or a stroke by identifying that your loved one ‘just isn’t acting right’ or it could prevent a medication error by identifying if a certain pill doesn’t look right and/or by questioning what the medication is for. Safety can be as simple as speaking up and I’d encourage it, for you and your loved ones.”

Great Plains QIN partners with healthcare professionals providing long-term care to support their efforts to achieve better healthcare, improved health, safer care and lower healthcare costs. Advancements in healthcare and technology continue to impact life span and quality of life. Nursing facilities become a home and the staff become like family for many of the residents.

Hintz recognizes the personal impact, “I hope that safety and quality will continue to be improved upon if I may enter a nursing home and or become afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s something a person thinks about – the future.”