Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beyond Baldrige

For hundreds of facilities across the country, February 28 is a very important day. Sure, it wraps up another calendar month - but more importantly, it's the close of the 2013 National Quality Awards application period. Right now, administrators, caregivers, directors of nursing, and other staff are tidying up their applications, prepping their submissions, and getting ready to meet tomorrow's 8pm EST deadline.

But why? Why are so many facilities focused on achieving a National Quality Award? What does it mean and where does it come from?

In short, the National Quality Awards program helps facilities take a three-level approach to achieving superior quality in their buildings. It starts with a Bronze Award, and then progresses to Silver, and finally the competitive Gold Quality Award. But these levels are not just determined out of thin air.

The backbone of the National Quality Award Program is the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. The Baldrige Program's mission is "To improve the competitiveness and performance of U.S. organizations for the benefit of all U.S. residents."  So, when it comes to health care, AHCA/NCAL have adapted the Baldrige criteria to a new set that enables facilities to grow their business performance in the health care sector.

Why the Baldrige program? Well, the program provides a bevvy of resources, and it has a proven track record of growing both revenue and jobs in organizations who follow the performance excellence criteria.

Still not sure of the value of the Baldrige program?  Take it from the mouths of CEOs of Baldrige Award-winning organizations in this YouTube channel.

For more info on the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Awards program, visit our website.

Snowed In: One Facility's Story of Care
This winter has been unforgiving for many communities across the United States: back-to-back snowstorms in New England, blizzards in the Midwest, and wind gusts as strong as 77 miles per hour in the Southern Plains. When weather like this sweeps through, skilled nursing caregivers and facility administrators have one thing on their mind: the safety of their community, including patients and residents in LTC facilities.

For many, emergency conditions mean scarcity: not just of resources, but of staff as well. But for one facility in Missouri, deep in the heart of a winter blizzard, the emergency meant an abundance: abundance of staff, of commitment, and determination to keep providing the best care possible.

Misty Brooks, administrator of Medicalodges, Butler, in Butler, MO, arrived at her facility at 6:00am. Not because that was when her shift started, but because she wanted to prepare a pancake breakfast for her staff. During the second Snow Emergency of the season, many of Misty's colleagues, including caregivers, LPNs, and DONs, had been sleeping at the facility to ensure that residents had everything they needed to stay safe, nourished, and cared for. 

Armed with food, beverages, and some treats, Misty was prepared to handle whatever came her way. After working several shifts in a row, she was certain staff numbers would drop as people returned to their homes. Instead, Misty was surrounded by men and women who were staying on, some for the third shift straight. The maintenance manager brought his son to the facility with him at 5:30 that morning to get the sidewalks shoveled and safe for residents and staff. The facility was committed to staying open, staying safe, and keeping care at the top of the priority.

As Misty wrote in an email to Fred Benjamin, COO of Medicalodges, after he commended her for her commitment to the facility:

"I really get [emotionally] moved on occasions like this. It is a warm feeling to see everyone gathered around the staffing schedule and seeing where they can help. There is a feeling in the building on days like this that is indescribable. There is no question about how much everyone loves our residents!"

Has your staff gone above and beyond to care for residents?  Share your story with us!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Best Nursing Homes of 2013

Each year, U.S. News & World Report releases its Best Nursing Homes ratings report, which highlights more than 15,000 nursing homes spanning the 50 states. The ratings are available for viewing at the U.S. News & World Report website.

The annual ratings are based on data available in the Nursing Home Compare tool established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. According to a press release on the report, the "Best Nursing Home" title is awarded to those facilities that "recently earned an overall rating of five stars...Each home is also rated separately on quality of care, health-inspections record, and level of nurse staffing."

Though the report is perhaps best known for its rating system and facility locator, it also provides consumers with a "Guide to Nursing Homes" that covers other important long term care topics, such as:
The American Health Care Association's Tom Burke contributes to the report by recommending important aspects of care to consider, such as consistent assignment and reduced staffing turnover, one of AHCA's main pillars of quality care. For more information on how to reduce staff turnover and to learn more about how to improve cre in your facility, explore AHCA's four-pillared Quality Initiative.

Interested in providing other consumer resources to friends and family in your facility? Visit to learn more about selecting a facility, download checklists for your facility visit, and hear feedback from experts in the long term care industry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Q&A on the QA: Advice from the Inside

Video Blog, Part 1

Did you attend the 2013 AHCA/NCAL Quality Symposium? It was three days packed with incredible learning opportunities, networking events, and education sessions! Let us know what your favorite part was by leaving a comment below, emailing, or tweeting us with #qs2013.

If you were unable to attend – don’t worry; LTC Leader has you covered. We grabbed some of the best Quality Experts we could find – professionals from across the country who serve on the AHCA/NCAL Quality Cabinet – and we chatted with them about the 2013 Quality Awards program. Here's what they had to say:

As the deadline nears for Silver and Gold applicants (the final day to submit applications is Feb. 28 – apply online here!), keep their advice in mind! Get organized, stay dedicated to quality, and commit your facility for the long haul - this is not a program based on checking off a list.

Want more tips and tools? Head to the Quality Award Applicant Resources page on our website, and be sure to follow announcements and updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

Medicare 101: The Basic Breakdown

There’s no doubt the Medicare program is complex. Think about how complicated it can be to keep your own family’s health care needs in line – now multiply that times the 39 million people for which Medicare provides health care coverage. Mix in the various program focuses (Medicare has two main parts – Part A for health care provided in hospitals, SNFs, hospices, etc., and Part B for optional additional coverage for doctor’s visits and out-patient services), and there’s a complex system of finances, insurance, health care needs, and individual patient plans.

Luckily, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform recognized the need for a dialogue on the program and its basic role in providing health care coverage for Americans. The two organizations put together a panel of Medicare experts to discuss the program and answer questions from the public. The panel briefing, entitled “Medicare 101: What You Need to Know,” is available on the Kaiser Family Foundation website, both as a video of the presentation and a podcast.

The panel also shares with the audience a short video, “The History of Medicare: A Timeline,” to refresh the audience – and those of us at home – about the history of the program and how it has adapted to the changing needs of the American population. 

For more information, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation or the Alliance for Health Reform.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Q&A on the QA: Advice from the Inside

Quality Awards Frequently Asked Questions, Post #2
Alert: the Bronze National Quality Award deadline has already passed! But Silver and Gold applicants still have three full weeks to finish up their applications and submit them online before 8pm EST on February 28. Need some assistance along the way? This second post in the "Q&A on the QA" series will give you access to an example of a successful Quality Award application, how to avoid disqualification, and quick tips on accessing your Trend Tracker data. 

So check out the advice from the inside below! Still have unanswered questions? Submit them to and follow along on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Q. Is it possible to see an example of a successful Quality Award application?

A. The Quality Award program does not post examples of successful Silver applications. However, there are a number of Gold recipient applications available on the website. Silver applicants are asked to respond to the Basic and Overall items in the Baldrige criteria, while Gold applicants respond to the full criteria; Basic, Overall and Multiple. So Silver applicants will find the Gold applications very useful in gaining an understanding of application formatting, structure and content. Links to the successful Gold applications can be downloaded here.

Q. On the Silver application, the technical requirements state that applicants are allotted 5 pages for the Organizational Profile and 15 pages for criteria responses. If an application has 4 pages for the Organizational Profile and 16 pages for criteria responses, will that result in disqualification?

A. Yes, in that scenario the application would likely be disqualified. In the very least, the last page of the application would not be reviewed. Silver and Gold applicants have a maximum of 5 pages to complete the Organizational Profile. Responses can be less than 5 pages, but cannot exceed 5 pages. Silver applicants have a maximum 15 pages to complete the responses to categories 1-7 of the Silver criteria, while Gold applicants have a maximum of 50 pages. Applicants must meet these page limit requirements. Applicants who do not adhere to the technical requirements are subject to disqualifications. A complete list of technical requirements is available in the Silver and Gold application packets.

Q. How do I obtain my log-in credentials for LTC Trend Tracker?

A. LTC Trend Tracker is an excellent data collection resource for Quality Award applicants, so it’s great to hear from applicants that are utilizing it! To access your credentials for LTC trend tracker, you should email Additional tips on accessing LTC Trend Tracker are as follows:
  1. LTC Trend Tracker password is a separate password from your AHCA member password. You will need to register prior to gaining access to the system.
  2. Due to the volume of registrants it can take 3-5 business days to process your application, so register early.
  3. If your facility is a multi-facility registration must take place at the corporate office. In addition, the corporate office determines who has access to LTC Trend Tracker. Therefore, if you work for a multi-facility email, we will check to see if your organization is registered and send an email to your account administrator to see if you can have access to the system. If you are not registered we will let you know that as well, and you can discuss this with your corporate office.
  4. If you have registered and forget your password please email to get your password. Customer service operates from 9-2:30PM CT Monday-Friday. In addition, you can hit the “forgot password” link and your password will be emailed to the registered email address on file.

Q. Is the turnover calculation supposed to include all employees, or just nursing employees?

A. The turnover calculation, asked in the on-line application form of the Bronze, Silver and Gold Quality Award applicants should include all employees, not just nursing staff.