In a move that could bring comfort to patients in nursing homes across the country, the federal government on Thursday announced a pilot program to help improve their health care outcomes and improve access to care.
The new federal guidelines were developed with the goal of reducing the risk of death from chronic conditions such as dementia and heart disease.
“We are committed to ensuring that nursing homes and long-term care facilities are fully prepared to meet the needs of their communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.
“Through the Precision Health Initiative, we are working with our partners to implement the guidance to help ensure that our communities have the best health care they can be able to provide.”
The guidelines, published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, aim to increase access to nursing home care by requiring more home care providers to provide more community-based services.
Nursing home and long term care facilities would also be required to maintain a plan to provide long-acting, long-lasting, and continuous nursing care to patients during the nursing home stay.
The new guidelines require nursing homes to make improvements in the following areas: Nursing home nursing home programs that have enrolled patients with dementia in at least 60 percent of their beds during the stay.
Nursing homes that are providing long-stay services at least three times per year.
Nursing care at a nursing facility.
Nursing facility resident training and accreditation.
Nursing program accreditation, and quality assurance.
The guidelines also set up a task force to review the progress of nursing home and nursing home residents in achieving accreditation for long-duration care.
“I have been at nursing homes for 25 years and I have seen first-hand how their care can be really critical,” said Dr. John M. Ritchie, a senior vice president at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“I’m so happy to see the federal guidelines provide a foundation for us to make the best of what we’ve learned in this process.”
The guidelines were announced at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Precision Health initiative will help ensure long-distance care providers are better prepared to provide care, said Dr, Peter C. Sacks, a professor of nursing and community health at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.
“What we are trying to do is to really build a platform for these providers to be able, by and large, to stay in their jobs and continue to provide the same level of care that they’re accustomed to,” he said.
“We’re hoping to see more people using this initiative to do that.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the guidelines are expected to be finalized in the second half of 2019.
The U.S. Department of Health and Health Care Services said it has already committed $1 billion to the Precision Care Initiative.
The agency said in an emailed statement that the guidelines would also improve patient safety by creating incentives for nursing homes, long term-care facilities, and community-care providers to better meet the challenges of chronic disease.