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Agency stayed in touch and improved the process
While most home health agencies think of emergency preparedness plans to address business operations during a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the Visiting Nurse Health System (VNHS) in Atlanta discovered that a good emergency plan also is needed when a state survey results in condition of participation-level deficiencies that jeopardized the agency’s participation in Medicare. (See Hospital Home Health, November 2002, p. 212.)
Because the agency was given 21 days to correct the deficiencies, it was important to have as many staff members available to work on developing and implementing needed changes, says Pat Reid, RN, vice president of development for the home health system. To meet the deadline, which required correction, not just a plan of action, VNHS stopped taking voluntary admissions from all insurers, hospitals, and other providers.
"I dreaded making those telephone calls, but it turned into an uplifting experience as everyone offered their support and expressed their belief in the quality of our service," she says.
While stopping new admissions seems extreme, VNHS chose to do so to enable staff members to focus completely on the corrections needed and to show the state survey agency that the home health firm took the citations seriously, Reid says.
"We also stayed in close contact with our employees during the three-week period," she explains. While communicating with employees who are in the field is a challenge, VNHS made use of its voicemail system to broadcast messages from the agency president. "The president would leave messages at least once a day updating employees on the progress we were making," she says.
This was important because some of the media coverage implied problems that would result in patients finding themselves with no home health care. "We wanted to make sure that our employees had up-to-date information so they could answer questions from patients and their families," she adds.
Nurses have told Reid that they would check their voice mail up to 10 times each day and that they appreciated how openly the agency communicated with them.