Archive for the ‘Health care reform’ Category

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Nursing, HIV/AIDS, Continuity of Care, Treatment Advances, and the ACA: The Essentials

March 6, 2014

As the Affordable Care Act takes effect, a timely overview in AJN of recent developments in screening, treatment, care, and demographics of the HIV epidemic

CascadeofCare

The ‘cascade of care’ (from the AJN article)

The newly released March issue of Health Affairs is devoted to looking at the ways the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect Americans with HIV/AIDS and those who have recently been in jail. One crucial feature of the ACA is that it prevents insurance companies from refusing coverage to those with a number of preexisting conditions. If you have a preexisting condition and don’t get insurance through work, you know how important this is.

Unfortunately, a large majority of those with HIV and AIDS do not have private health insurance. One article in the March issue of Health Affairs draws attention to the plight of the 60,000 or so uninsured or low-income people with HIV or AIDS who will not receive health insurance coverage because their states are among those that have chosen to opt out of the ACA provision that expands Medicaid eligibility. This means many patients in these states may lack consistent care and reliable access to life-saving drugs.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) improves patient quality of life and severely reduces expensive and debilitating or fatal long-term health problems in those with HIV/AIDS. As noted in AJN‘s March CE article, “Nursing in the Fourth Decade of the HIV Epidemic,”

The sooner a patient enters care, the better the outcome—especially if the patient stays in care, is adherent to combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), and achieves an undetectable viral load.

The authors, pointing out that only 66% of those with HIV in the U.S. are currently “linked to care” and, of these, only about half remain in care, argue that

“[e]ngaging and retaining people with HIV infection in care is best achieved by an interdisciplinary team that focuses on basic life requirements, addresses economic limits, and treats comorbid conditions such as mental illness and hepatitis C infection.”

But there’s a lot more in this article about screening, advances in drug therapy, treatment, and epidemiology that all nurses will need to know as the ACA brings more HIV-infected patients into every type of health care setting. Here’s the overview, but we hope you’ll read the article itself, which is open access, like all AJN CE features: Read the rest of this entry ?

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A Report from the ANA Safe Staffing Conference

November 11, 2013

Katheren Koehn, MA, RN, AJN editorial board member and executive director of MNORN (Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses), reports from last week’s ANA conference on staffing held in Washington, DC.

staffiing

Click image for source page at ANA staffing site.

The ANA Safe Staffing Conference ended on Saturday. There were almost 700 registered nurses from all over the country in attendance—nurses in management, direct care, and leadership—all gathered to try to discover new strategies for how to solve the most challenging issue in nursing: safe staffing.

Not a new issue. This has long been the most challenging issue for nursing. Teresa Stone, editor of Poems from the Heart of Nursing: Selected Poems from the American Journal of Nursing, told me that, as she was searching the archives of 113 years of AJN issues for her book, she found that staffing issues were a frequent theme. Today, as the work of nurses has become more complex, the need to create sustainable solutions to ensuring appropriate staffing is our most critical issue—hence the ANA Staffing Conference.

The body of evidence supporting the idea that appropriate nurse staffing makes a difference in saving patients’ lives has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. This evidence—paired with the new federal financial incentives for hospitals to improve patient outcomes and experiences—makes it seem inevitable that increasing nurse staffing would be the next step. But decreases in Medicare reimbursement rates, along with caution about future finances related to some aspects of health care reform, are in fact making hospital purse strings tighter than ever. Nurses continue to beg to be taken out of the “room and board” costs and to be seen as an asset. But instead, they are often seen as a major expense that can be reduced for the sake of the bottom line. If this impasse is to be brokered, it will demand new thinking and new communication.

A focus on innovation. Past ANA president Barbara Blakeney, now innovations specialist at the Center for Innovation in Care Delivery in the Institute for Patient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, asked attendees to be innovative in our solutions to the problems of staffing. She taught us about the five “discovery skills” of innovators:  associating, observing, experimenting, questioning, and networking. For example, innovators are extremely good at networking with smart people with whom they have little in common but from whom they can learn.

Blakeney also reminded us that in this time of wanting everything to be based on evidence, we also have to allow for discovery and creation of new practices. One of the processes she recommends for innovation at the hospital unit level is the rapid-cycle improvement process used by the Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB) initiative. In addition, she emphasized that anyone at the unit level can potentially lead change. Leadership’s role is to make the environment safe for trying new things—for innovation. Read the rest of this entry ?

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They’re Not Taking Away Our Puppies (And God Help Them If They Do)

September 30, 2013

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor/blog editor

I am amazed at the amount of time being wasted on the relatively mundane matter of health care exchanges. It seems we are now facing a government shutdown; there are creepy and misleading advertisements funded by conservative billionaires like the Koch brothers in order to scare people from signing up for insurance; some red states have actually enacted laws forbidding the health care navigators from helping people understand the new system and sign up for it, and many of these states have refused to create their own exchanges to help their citizens comply with the new law.

The ACA is a law. You can’t just ignore it if it doesn’t meet your personal preferences or political ideas. Given the heated rhetoric the Republicans are trotting out about it, you’d think the government was trying to take away our puppies, instead of implementing ideas originally floated by Republicans themselves to make life a bit easier for millions of Americans whose life decisions are unduly ruled by crazy health care billing practices, byzantine insurance regulations, discrimination against those who have chronic conditions, insanely varying pricing for simple tests, and the like. Read the rest of this entry ?

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One Is the Loneliest Number

September 13, 2013

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

The great Bartholdi statue, liberty enlightening the world: the gift of France to the American people.  Speculative depiction published the year before the statue was erected. In this depiction the statue faces south; it actually faces east/Wikimedia Commons

The Bartholdi statue, liberty enlightening the world: the gift of France to the American people. Speculative depiction published the year before the statue was erected. In this depiction the statue faces south; it actually faces east/Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been struck recently by how the United States sometimes seems to stand apart from other nations. This is sometimes called “American exceptionalism.”

The most obvious example of this is the recent push—temporarily put on hold due to the emergence of negotiations about the possible handover of Syrian chemical weapons to Russia—to garner support among other nations for a military strike against the Syrian government in response to its use of chemical weapons against its own people.

By now, most of us have seen the graphic videos on media outlets and they are indeed disturbing. There are signs of neurotoxicity in some of the victims: rigid posturing, seizures, and foaming at the mouth. According to news reports, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the evidence is “undeniable” and it deserves a harsh response. While several other countries and alliances have issued statements condemning the use of chemical weapons, thus far, other than France, none have come forward to agree to military action; there seems to be little likelihood of action by the United Nations (UN).

It may well be a case of apples and oranges, but another example of how the United States stands alone in comparison to other developed countries is in our approach to health care. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and then the Supreme Court’s upholding of its individual mandate provision, made me think this country would at last join most of the other developed nations of the world in providing for the health of its people.

But how naive I was! The resistance by opponents of the law has now moved to the states, many of which have refused to expand Medicaid or institute the insurance exchanges that are essential to providing health coverage for those currently without it and who must obtain it to meet the individual mandate. According to Kaiser Health News, a number of states are offering insurance exchanges or marketplaces where consumers not covered by employer-provided insurance can “shop” for low-cost plans and plans that fit individual health care needs and budgets (according to one report, a Minnesota resident can purchase a plan for under $100 a month). In those states which declined to set up exchanges, a federal plan will be available. Enrollment in the exchanges is set to begin October 1. Read the rest of this entry ?

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48 Years of Medicare (and Counting)

July 26, 2013

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief, and Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Next week marks Medicare’s 48th anniversary. President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation creating Medicare on July 30, 1965, guaranteeing health coverage for the elderly. With the gradual implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA; 2010), Medicare, along with other government and private forms of health insurance, is undergoing changes, with efforts being made to rein in rising costs, combat fraud, tie quality of care to reimbursement, and so on.

PPresident Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

With the ACA’s date for mandated purchase of health insurance fast approaching, some states are setting up state-run health insurance exchanges to provide consumers with a standardized menu of health insurance plans in order to make it easier to purchase a plan that fits both budget and health care needs. Other states have refused to participate (see “Policy and Politics: Update on the Affordable Care Act” in the April 2013 issue of AJN); by default, citizens of those states will instead participate in federally run exchanges.

The debate over government-sponsored health insurance is not new. According to a timeline at SocialSecurity.gov, Congressional hearings on the topic occurred as early as 1916, with the American Medical Association (AMA) first voicing support for a proposed state health insurance program and then, in 1920, reversing its position. A government health insurance program was a key initiative of President Harry Truman, but, as with the Clinton health initiative several decades later, it didn’t go anywhere because of strong opposition from the AMA and others.

AJN covered the topic in an article (AJN articles cited in this post will be free until August 26) in the May 1958 issue after a health insurance bill was introduced in 1957 by representative Aime J. Forand of Rhode Island  (HR 9467). Yet again, one of the staunchest opponents was the AMA. In the September 1958 issue, “at the request of the American Medical Association,” AJN published an article by its general manager, explaining the AMA’s opposition.

Many commentators have pointed out that the ACA, frequently attacked and undermined by its opponents during these years of its gradual implementation, may one day be seen much as we now see Medicare, which was also widely attacked when it began—that is, the ACA may be simply taken for granted as a necessary, if complex and flawed, program that many people depend upon. Read the rest of this entry ?

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‘Patient Activation': Real Paradigm Shift or Updated Jargon?

February 7, 2013

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

I attended a Health Affairs briefing yesterday in Washington, DC. Based on the February issue of the journal, it was called “A New Era of Patient Engagement.” A lot of research money appears to have been flowing to this area in recent years.

Our January article on "Navigating the PSA Screening Dilemma" includes a discussion of 'shared decision making'

Our January article on “Navigating the PSA Screening Dilemma” includes a discussion of ‘shared decision making’

The basic idea isn’t entirely new to anyone who’s been hearing the term “patient-centered care” for a long time: as Susan Dentzer writes in “Rx for the ‘Blockbuster Drug’ of Patient Engagement,” a useful article summarizing the main ideas raised in the Health Affairs issue: “Wherever engagement takes place, the emerging evidence is that patients who are actively involved in their health and health care achieve better health outcomes, and have lower health costs, than those who aren’t.”

One might add to these projected benefits: better experiences as patients.

Something’s got to change, so why not this? If many nurses feel they’ve heard all this before, the sense of a health care system in necessary flux is particularly acute right now, with mounting pressures from an aging Baby Boom generation with its full complement of chronic conditions, not to mention federal budget constraints and the influx of patients expected from the Affordable Care Act. It’s unlikely we’d be talking so much about patient engagement if we weren’t facing, perhaps as never before, the need to do something about the glaring gap between costs and quality in the U.S. health care system.

Patient activation. A term that got a huge amount of use at the briefing was “patient activation.” Hibbard and colleagues define it thus, in an article on the the evidence for cost reductions associated with patient activation: “understanding one’s own role in the care process and having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take on that role.” Some examples of patient activation they cite are patients with type 2 diabetes performing regular foot checks and keeping a glucose diary, or patients who regularly exercise and get relevant screenings.

Don’t write off certain type of patients. Many of the presenters emphasized that it’s important to see patient activation as a possibility for every patient, whatever their socioeconomic level, disease severity, or cognitive limitations. As Hibbard put it, “there are more or less activated patients in every demographic.” Providers need to meet patients where they are and, as Marion Danis put it in an article on the ethical justification for getting patient activation right, set goals and have realistic expectations.

The physician problem. Many presenters noted that, without support from the health care system, individual efforts may not make much of a difference. In addition, physician resistance was mentioned repeatedly, whether attributed to their lack of time, their skepticism, or the overly common belief that more expensive care is always better. Bernabeo and colleagues observed that even those physicians who advocate shared decision making may not always engage in it. Their article on necessary competencies posits four crucial elements for true patient engagement: system support, providing patients with decision aids, collaborations and teamwork (can anyone say nurses?), and new reimbursement models.

Lin and colleagues, in looking at efforts to distribute decision aids in primary care practices, also noted physician-based problems with furthering patient activation, discovering that physicians

  • didn’t see a role for patients in their own care.
  • believed they lacked the time to give them decision aids.
  • didn’t see a potential benefit in doing so.

They also found, again unsurprisingly, that clinical support staff embraced the concept far more than the physicians did. Read the rest of this entry ?

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ECRI Conference Notes: Creating and Replicating ‘Systemness’ within Health Care Delivery

December 5, 2012

By Joyce Pulcini, PhD, RN, FAAN, Policy and Politics contributing editor, AJN

The ECRI Institute’s 19th annual conference (November 28–29) looked at system-level innovation and quality in the health care system. It brought together experts from many fields, including medicine, nursing, hospital or health system administration, informatics, health care quality, policy makers, journalists, and academics. ECRI Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that researches the best approaches to improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of patient care. The goals of the conference were to address the following:

  1. What is “systemness”?
  2. Which elements within mature health care systems result in the best clinical outcomes?
  3. Are approaches taken by long-established systems transferable to smaller, newer, or less integrated systems?
  4. Are financial incentives enough to drive change?
  5. How can electronic health records (EHRs) help improve “systemness”?
  6. Do transformation units within health care systems produce results?

The conference essentially tried to attack in a creative way the issues around the creation of systems that function optimally. Truly changing culture and providing optimal care delivery should always result in putting the patient at the center of care. The conversation was open and the conference succeeded in fostering important dialogue among the speakers and the audience.  A major focus was on creating systems, looking at technological or financial solutions, and measuring outcomes.

The session on team care (“Creating teams to improve inter- and intra-health care systems: Does evidence show a benefit?”)  highlighted the vexing issues around how to truly foster optimal teams. Lisa Schilling, RN, MPH, VP National HC Performance Improvement, Director, Center for Health Care Systems Performance, was one of the speakers. She started in her role in 2008 and by 2010 published the results of her efforts, which led to a 30-day readmission rate after hospitalization reduction of 9% (Schilling et al, 2010) and a dramatic reduction of mortality from severe sepsis, which saved 1,100 lives. The solution, she says, was to focus on culture, with leaders and teams working together from the ground up to create learning organizations with clearly measured outcomes. She emphasized that while leaders manage variation, change culture, and manage team-based improvement, change begins at the front lines and alignment in health systems is a key factor in systemness.

Patient perspective. Another speaker, Jesse Gruman, a patient and consumer advocate, asked some heartfelt questions about who teams benefit. She answered quite honestly that patients do not really understand how teams will benefit them. Patients want to have a relationship with their “doctors,” not with teams. They are not really interested in being the leader of the teams either, as some of the rhetoric suggests. When they are sick, patients need people who can help them get better and the patient cannot lead this aspect of care.

She challenged us to think about what happens when teams do not work together well. She was concerned about the large “cast of characters” patients must often face while hospitalized. One solution, which was proposed by Children’s Hospital Boston, was a patient app called “My Passport App,” which had pictures of staff who were on their team (as an alternative to the old whiteboard solution). Family as well as patients could see who was on the care team, know what to do at home, and actually see their own plan of care.

Who really benefits from teams? One speaker asked who teams really benefit. In the end, the perception of the value of teams did not always reach the consumer. If the patient does not see the value of team care, we have a long way to go if this concept is to succeed. Patients should not have to receive the mixed messages and experience the poor communication often inherent in modern health care. Read the rest of this entry ?

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