06Jun

Americans want greater access to their medical records and support sharing their health information among all their healthcare providers.

By a 61% majority, the Pew Charitable Trusts found people want to be able to access and download their medical records to apps on mobile devices. An even larger 81% of the respondents to the Pew survey support sharing medical records among healthcare professionals caring for the same patient.

Though there’s broad support for accessing and sharing medical records, the survey found nine out of 10 respondents are concerned about the privacy aspects. Three-quarters would be comfortable if the app they use was approved by the healthcare providers. With other apps, the comfort level drops off substantially.

The other privacy concern centers around just what information in patient records would be shared.

“Respondents expressed some concern with how certain information would be treated, such as any history of substance use, their behavioral health backgrounds, or details on social determinants of health such as income levels or access to food,” said Pew’s report on the survey findings.

75% of the survey participants felt comfortable giving their personal doctor this information, but a less than majority 48% want it shared with others. Based on focus groups conducted previously, Pew said the concern is being pre-judged based on social determinants.

“Participants had questions and concerns, including that this information would lead to assumptions about patients and could contribute to discrimination,” Pew said in an previous article discussing the focus groups. “Many participants said they would feel comfortable discussing (social determinants of health) with clinicians with whom they had an established relationship, but they had concerns about that information being shared with a different provider.”

One of the challenges to sharing electronic medical records among providers is patient matching – accurately linking a patient’s information in one facility to their records elsewhere. Three-quarters of the survey participants supported having the federal government set a national standard to identify patients across multiple providers. Years ago, Congress authorized the creation of a unique patient identifier, but has so far failed to allocate the money to get the job done. Pew found widespread bipartisan support for spending on to set up the system. Fingerprint scans and a unique code were the most popular identifiers. Just over a majority supported eye or facial scans or an app.

“This survey,” writes Ben Moscovitch who directs Pew’s health information technology initiative, “Shows that Americans recognize the importance of getting their own health data and sharing it with the clinicians that care for them.”

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

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Celebrating Healthcare Workers: ‘You Are the Champions’

If you happen to be in a Rhode Island hospital, you might hear the Rocky theme song accompanied by cheering. At New York’s Presbyterian Queens Hospital the song is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.” When the staff at Indiana University Health North Hospital celebrated the discharge of their first COVID-19 patient, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” was playing.

All across America, hospitals are celebrating the discharge of recovered patients with upbeat, positive songs as medical staff cheer.

No one is certain where the practice began. The earliest word comes from CNN, which in mid-April reported that hospital staffs were celebrating the release of COVID-19 patients by lining the hallways to clap and cheer. Hospitals in New York were including music in these impromptu celebrations.

“It is not only a tribute to the resilience of the patient, but also an anthem of affirmation for the medical professionals: Through long shifts, with few positive moments and supplies stretched thin, they have saved another life,” wrote The New York Times a few days later.

Now, singer Adam Lambert and Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor have produced a new version of a classic Queen hit, renaming it “You are the Champions” in honor of healthcare workers. Released on streaming and music download channels just over a week ago, proceeds from the song go to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.https://www.youtube.com/embed/7LcLqIHzNkY?feature=oembed

The video version opens with scenes of empty streets and communities and images of mask-wearing people worldwide, before moving to medical professionals and first responders caring for victims. As befitting an anthem that celebrates victory, the video ends with hospital staff cheering the release of patients everywhere.  

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

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Nursing Home Minimum Staffing Rule: Finalized New Mandate

Nursing home staffing is a critical component of resident care and safety. Recent federal mandates have underscored the importance of adequate staff in these facilities, particularly in light of the challenges faced during the pandemic.

The pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities within nursing homes, revealing the devastating consequences of understaffing. Inadequate staffing levels contributed to the spread of infections and compromised resident care. The need for sufficient staff to provide quality care and ensure resident safety has never been more evident.

Key Points of the Mandate

According to a fact sheet published by the White House, “The Nursing Home Minimum Staffing Rule finalized today will require all nursing homes that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid to have 3.48 hours per resident per day of total staffing, including a defined number from both registered nurses (0.55 hours per resident per day) and nurse aides (2.45 per resident per day). This means a facility with 100 residents would need at least two or three RNs and at least ten or eleven nurse aides as well as two additional nurse staff (which could be registered nurses, licensed professional nurses, or nurse aides) per shift to meet the minimum staffing standards. Many facilities would need to staff at a higher level based on their residents’ needs. It will also require facilities to have a registered nurse onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide skilled nursing care, which will further improve nursing home safety. Adequate staffing is proven to be one of the measures most strongly associated with safety and good care outcomes.”

The fact sheet also stated, “To make sure nursing homes have the time they need to hire necessary staff, the requirements of this rule will be introduced in phases, with longer timeframes for rural communities. Limited, temporary exemptions will be available for both the 24/7 registered nurse requirement and the underlying staffing standards for nursing homes in workforce shortage areas that demonstrate a good faith effort to hire.”

Industry Opinions

Some experts raise concerns about the feasibility of meeting the mandated requirements, citing the ongoing challenges of staffing shortages within the industry. According to Skilled Nursing News, “Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, criticized the rule for not including any support for recruitment and training of needed staff. “How can providers hire more RNs when they do not exist?” she said in a statement. “Nurse aides, who are the backbone of aging services, are also in short supply – yet again, the rule does not include support to recruit, train and hire more of these critical workers. By the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) estimate, the rule will add to providers’ financial burden – by $43 billion, over 10 years.”

To address these concerns, the rule will be implemented gradually, allowing nursing homes time to hire additional staff and adjust to the new requirements. This phased approach aims to minimize disruptions to resident care while ensuring compliance with the mandate.

Particular attention will be paid to the challenges faced by rural communities, where recruiting and retaining staff may be more challenging.

The new nursing home staffing mandate represents a pivotal moment in prioritizing resident care and safety. By establishing minimum staffing ratios and requiring 24/7 RN coverage, the mandate aims to address longstanding challenges within the industry. While concerns about staffing shortages persist, the potential positive impact on residents’ well-being cannot be overstated.

If you are looking to transition into a new role within the healthcare industry, be sure to check out our jobs page for our recent postings and to connect with one of our industry expert recruiters.

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