States Collaborating For Assisted Living Quality Standards
The assisted living industry’s role for caring for seniors makes it’s commitment to quality all the more important, even beyond what is commonly expected. With some states’ regulatory resources falling behind, there are senior living providers in states such as Arizona and Wisconsin which are stepping up through collaborations that will emphasize quality improvement and assurance. Assisted living is regulated by each state, with many states’ regulations requiring annual inspections of licensed assisted living communities. Those inspections don’t always happen on a regular basis.
“As an industry, we support annual unannounced inspections, but we have seen a few states—including New Jersey, Texas, and New York—where they are less frequent now because of cutbacks due to the budget,” says Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of policy at ALFA.
Wisconsin’s Bureau of Assisted Living is gearing up to expand towards a comprehensive quality assurance program for the state’s nearly 3000 assisted living communities. The public initiative is known as Wisconsin Coalition for Collaborative Excellence in Assisted Living (WCCEAL).
“It’s unprecedented to have the associations, advocates, regulatory agencies, and an academic institution all at the same table working toward a common goal,” says Alfred Johnson, director of BAL. “It’s truly trendsetting. I haven’t seen anything like this in assisted living.”
Resourcing concerns were factored into WCCEAL’s development, but there was more to the trailblazing system. The program is hoping to incentivize quality improvement for assisted living and long term care by measuring performance and developing support systems. Through the WCCEAL website, providers in the program can report occupancy and staffing and resident data. They can also report quality improvement structures, outcomes relating to falls, processing, hospital readmissions and other related information.
WALA has developed it’s own version of WCCEAL, known as the Diamond Accreditation Program. The providers must be WALA members to join and will enter the larger state initiative automatically. WALA has developed its programs around Wisconsin specific standards along with a peer partner program that helps to pair providers that need support with other association members that would be able to provide support. Increasing the number of participants in the quality efforts would be challenging and will take time but many of these individuals are willing to rally up the support in order to get the results that will benefit the rest of the assisted living industry.
Providers in other states are pursuing similar voluntary participation options to help improve quality. Arizona’s state regulatory agency recognizes accreditation by CARF International in place of the annual surveys. Most of the assisted living organizations pursuing accreditation are working towards quality. Although the system isn’t new, it is seeing a lot of growth and is gaining more attention as a way to target various resources. Regulatory agencies are noticing and approving the desire among the assisted living industry to improve.