Avoid survey deficiencies through clear communication and honesty, former surveyor says

Ashley Carman, Editorial Intern
McKnight’s Long Term Care News


July 24, 2013 – Long-term care providers should use surveys as an opportunity to showcase great care in their facilities, a former surveyor said in a McKnight’s Super Tuesday webcast.

Although many administrators dread survey time, the process doesn’t need to be filled with deficiencies and abrasive conversations, said William M. Vaughan, vice president of education and clinical affairs at Remedi SeniorCare Pharmacy and a former surveyor.

Vaughan explained that surveyors are similar to baseball umpires.

“Their job is to look at the care provided at nursing homes and facilities,” he said. “They either meet the regs [regulations], or they don’t.”

Once a surveyor has identified a deficiency, he/she wants to gather a substantial amount of evidence to defend it. In order to keep the relationship positive, honesty is key.

For example, if a resident shows a drastic weight loss and the surveyor asks what happened, a provider shouldn’t lie and say the scales were broken — which has happened, Vaughan noted. Inevitably, the surveyor will look back at other residents’ records and see the scales were functioning for them.

“Credibility is everything and hard to regain,” Vaughan said.

More than anything, providers need to be able to explain their actions during survey time. If a resident wasn’t admitted to a hospital until hours after an injury, there needs to be a reason for it.

A thorough risk/benefit analysis can help keep track of decision making. Good communication has the potential to reduce deficiency citations.

“Compliance is best achieved by focusing on the residents, not the regulations,” he said. “Stay focused on the resident, and the regs will follow.”

Vaughan also advised avoiding phrases such as “no heroics,” or “comfort care only,” unless it is clearly defined within a facility’s policy.

The webcast can be seen online. Participants will not receive CE credit unless they listened to the live presentation.