The Kaiser Family Foundation’s recently released “Nursing Facilities, Staffing, Residents and Facility Deficiencies” report shows deficiencies have dropped across the industry from 9.3% in 2009 to 8.6% in 2015. According to the report, the most common deficiencies were given for failure in infection control (47.4%); food sanitation (43.7%); accident environment (42.0%); quality of care (36.1%); and pharmacy consultation (28.9%). One in 5 facilities had deficiencies that were designated as causing actual harm or “Immediate Jeopardy.”
Some of these improvements may be credited to the fact that average resident care hours are also on the rise—increasing from 3.9 hours in 2009 to 4.1 hours in 2015. However, as the study shows, much of the increase in resident care hours is due to an increase in non-licensed nursing hours.
Proper staffing is often directly linked to higher quality of care for residents, with the highest quality of care generally coming from organizations that have a heavily weighted number of RN hours. As length of stay continues to decline and the number of admits and discharges continues to increase, industry-wide concerns remain as to how skilled nursing communities will be able to staff accordingly. In addition, the uncertain future of Medicare and Medicaid funding has many organizations worried as to how they’ll be able to afford the kind of staff they’ll need to accommodate the increase in residents.
While this report is encouraging in showing that the overall quality of care in the industry is improving, there is still much to be done to ensure both resident care hours and deficiencies continue to trend in the right direction. First, senior care providers must consistently meet their staffing targets and set labor management goals to reach or exceed current HPPD industry averages. For many organizations, this will require utilizing their current employee base to capacity in order to avoid the need for new hires.
Long-term care organizations will also need to place a greater focus on both recruiting and retention, and rethinking their employee engagement strategies. This may include the creation of new programs dedicated to recognition, career development and morale.