Category Archives: Consumers

Palliative Care Services Increasing Across the U.S.

Palliative care services are now more accessible to patients with serious and chronic illnesses in the United States. The Mayo Clinic defines palliative care as offering pain and symptom management and emotional and spiritual support when a patient faces a chronic, debilitating or life-threatening illness. Increasingly offered to patients of any age with a range of chronic illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, palliative care may be provided at the same time as curative medical regimens to help patients tolerate side effects of disease and treatment, and proceed with everyday life. According to a recent December 22, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, palliative care programs have increased three fold over the past decade. Many hospitals have specialized palliative care programs and 80% of hospitals with 250 beds or more provide such a program.

The provision of palliative care with or without curative treatment can lead increased patient and health care provider satisfaction, equal or better symptom control, less anxiety and depression, less caregiver distress, and potential cost savings. A patient’s quality of life can be enhanced with active and effective pain and symptom management. The need for aggressive pain and symptom management often lead patients to seek out a palliative care program to manage their symptoms during a chronic or terminal illness. Some patients also choose to utilize hospice care towards the end of their life journey after receiving services from a palliative care program. With the better availability of palliative care, those patients seeking pain relief and symptom control at any stage of their chronic or terminal illness care are able to find the services to address their needs including assisting the patient and the family to navigate the often complicated medical system.

HIPAA Violation Carries Jail Time

A former Florida nursing assistant pleaded guilty to wrongfully disclosing protected health information of residents in an assisted living facility. Denetria Barnes and Jakiel Bazart stole HIPAA protected records and sold the individual’s names, birth dates and social security numbers. An undercover sting with the cooperation of a number of law enforcement agencies caught the pair attempting to sell information for approximately 400 individuals for $15,000. A Florida district court judge has ordered restitution of $12,000, a sentence of 37 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.

More information can be found at the US Department of Justice website http://www.justice.gov.

Long Term Care Facilities Should Anticipate Increased Scrutiny on Nursing Home Trust Fund Oversight

USA Today recently published a report about theft from nursing home resident trust funds by facility employees. According to USA Today’s analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), more than 1,500 nursing homes have been cited since 2010 for mismanaging trust funds—of the more than 100 thefts identified, at least 10 exceeded $100,000. The report warns about inadequate oversight, at both the nursing home and state surveyor level, to effectively protect the integrity of resident funds from employee theft. Continue reading

CMS Issues Guidance on CPR in Nursing Facilities

The first Survey & Certification memo for nursing facilities was issued for Fiscal Year 2014 on October 1, 2013. S&C 14-01-NH requires nursing facilities to adopt a policy that implements basic life support measures such as basic CPR for residents in accordance with the individual resident’s advance directives. Some nursing facilities have previously adopted a policy that when a resident is found without vital signs and the resident was a full code, the facility called 911 and waited for a response from the emergency personnel. CMS has affirmatively stated that the facility implement CPR when cardiac arrest occurs for residents in accordance with their advance directives and merely waiting for emergency personnel to respond to the 911 call is inadequate. CPR certified staff must be available at all times to provide CPR when necessary. Facilities will be cited under F155 for violating a resident’s right to formulate an advance directive if the facility does not develop and successfully implement policies and procedures to assure that residents will be resuscitated in accordance with their individual advance directives.

You can find a copy of  the letter here —> S&C 14-01-NH

For more information on the Survey Letter or related issues, please feel free to contact Janet Feldkamp or any member of our health care practice group for a further discussion.

Cameras, Citations and Abuse Investigations – Caring for the Ages Article

Covert video monitoring of care in long-term care facilities is becoming more and more pervasive.  As a result, regulatory citations and investigations that are initiated by covert video monitoring are on the rise.

Janet Feldkamp discusses these issues in a recent article entitled “Cameras, Citations and Abuse Investigations” which appeared in the September 11, 2013 edition of Caring for the Ages.

You can find a copy of Janet’s article  here —>  Cameras, Citations and Abuse Investigations

HITECH Compliance Deadline for Protected Health Information is Almost Here

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act’s compliance deadline for its HIPAA amendments is just around the corner. On September 23, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will require covered entities, including most health care providers, and many of their business associates to meet the new Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification requirements for protected health information (PHI). In preparation, covered entities and business associates should have updated policies, procedures, and business associate agreements, as well as trained employees on the new rules. Business associate agreements created, modified, or renewed on or after January 25, 2013 must be compliant by September 23, while agreements existing before January 25 that have not been subsequently renewed or modified must be compliant by September 22, 2014.  Continue reading

HHS Settles Case Regarding HIPAA Risks of ePHI on Portable Devices

Earlier this week, HHS announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates, Inc. in the amount of $1.5 million, relating to a breach report submitted by MEEI. The report, as required by the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, was made after the theft of an unencrypted personal laptop containing electronic protected health information (ePHI) of patients and research subjects. Continue reading