From the CEO’s Desk: OIG Says Infection Control Surveys in LTC biggest missed opportunity of 2021

Date: November 15, 2021 | By: El Harris, Chief Executive Officer, AMS Infection Prevention Partners

It’s difficult to believe that we’re already talking about wrapping up 2021 and looking ahead to 2022, but here we are. Much like 2020, 2021 was a tough year for those of us in long-term care. While we began to see some glimmers of hope with COVID-19 (cases decreasing as vaccination rates increased), many homes were faced with (and, in many cases, continue to face) dire staffing shortages, continued infection outbreaks, and the rise of drug-resistant infections. 

 

We know the value of infection surveillance. We preach it every single day. It’s our practice’s mission - to help our trusted LTC partners implement proactive infection surveillance programs to keep them compliant with F880 requirements and - more importantly - to control and prevent infection outbreaks. 

 

The Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services recently released its annual OIG's Top Unimplemented Recommendations: Solutions To Reduce Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. The report focuses on missed opportunities that, if they had been implemented, “would most positively affect HHS programs in terms of cost savings, program effectiveness and efficiency, and public health and safety.”  We’re not surprised that the lack of infection control surveys in nursing homes was the first reference on the list! The report states: “To ensure that nursing homes are implementing actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that they are protecting residents, CMS should assess the results of infection control surveys of nursing homes and revise surveys as appropriate, and clarify expectations for States to complete backlogs of standard surveys and high priority complaint surveys that were suspended in the early months of the pandemic.” 

 

We recently released a clinical abstract that examined thousands of PCR-based diagnostic laboratory tests conducted on LTC residents across the country, which demonstrates the alarming and continued infection risk trends. Our Chief Medical Director, Dr. Chris Morgan, took an extensive look at more than 4,000 full respiratory panel PCR tests conducted at 56 long-term care facilities. Of the 4,071 total tests analyzed, more than one-third had at least one antibiotic-resistant pathogen.  

We’ve known that MDROs are both dangerous and on the rise, but our analysis also concluded that 53% of asymptomatic residents risk spreading infection in nursing homes.  

 

More than 70% of LTC residents receive one or more courses of antibiotics annually, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 50% and 70% of these are improperly prescribed or unnecessary. Because of this trend, there are more than 2.5 million MDRO infections annually which results in the deaths of 35,000 Americans, along with mounting clinical care costs and avoidable hospital admissions. This costs as much as $4.6 billion annually.  

Read more about Dr. Morgan's clinical findings, Download the full abstract now.

 

Skilled nursing facilities are being held to a new "Gold Standard" of infection control and antibiotic stewardship by CMS, while families, staff, hospitals, and health systems seek out SNFs that embrace comprehensive infection prevention and control measures. Now, the OIG has it in its sights as well.  

 

This infection control government attention won’t be going away anytime soon. It’ll only increase. Now is the time to act to focus on infection surveillance in 2022, and we’re here to help.  Contact us today to learn some simple steps to start your infection prevention plan for 2022!