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Advice from an Emeritus Medical Director

As some of you know, 2019 ended with the closing of my Post-acute & Long-term Care practice.  In the process, I turned over the care of my patients to 3 other physicians and my 2 facility Medical Directorships to 2 of my colleagues.  Having been the Medical Director for over 33 years at my CCRC, I have had some time to reflect on this role, beyond the CMS expectations and AMDA guidelines ((https://paltc.org/product-store/amda-model-medical-director-agreement-and-supplemental-materials-medical-director).  

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Flu Season: A Brief Update on this Year's Influenza Activity

As a service to CALTCM members, and to encourage our clinicians to actively recommend influenza vaccination to their LTC and community dwelling patients, we are sharing recent information on resurgence of Flu activity in California.
 
From the California Department of Public Health:
  • Deaths: 54 since Sept. 29, 2019
  • Outbreaks: 16 since Sept. 29, 2019
  • Laboratory: 27.7% positive
  • Outpatient Influenza-Like Illnesses*: Above expected levels
  • Hospitalizations: Above expected levels

For more information from the CDC on this years Flu activity, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

Are High Quality Webinars a Part of Your Professional Development?

I recently received a text message from a nurse at my Geriatric Clinic that informed me “Mrs. X, (90 y/o) is demanding a prescription for lorazepam (Ativan) for an intolerable flare of insomnia and anxiety”.  She had seen a clinic colleague 2 days prior, who had declined this request, but did prescribe an alternative medicine for her restless leg syndrome (RLS). Though my next day clinic schedule was already full, I texted back to add her to my schedule.  

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Apple Watch Health Implications

I’ve recently seen a spate of reports of individuals whose “life has been saved” by the Apple Watch. Reading these articles generally reveals that it was actually the onset of atrial fibrillation that was detected. While that is very important and promptly addressing atrial fibrillation can allow treatment to prevent devastating strokes, I have yet to see true evidence of saving lives. Until they build in a defibrillator, I suspect most of the health benefits from this type of remote monitoring will be identification of bradycardia, atrial fibrillation and other cardiac arrhythmias. A large study on the value of arrhythmia monitoring with the watch, The Apple Heart Study, has had its rationale and design published but the results remain to be reported. Versions 4 and 5 of the Apple Watch can take a single lead EKG, but I have not seen any reports where changing morphology is used to detect hyperkalemia or QT prolongation or ischemia. There is a paper in preprint on using the Apple Watch to take standard and precordial leads, by placing it on the leg or changing the finger used to record. It remains to be seen if this rather cumbersome approach has practical utility in a busy medical practice.

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Review of the 2019 Fall Summit

On Saturday, October 19, the California Association of Long-Term Care Medicine (CALTCM) hosted our 2019 Fall Summit “The Best of the 2019 CALTCM Summit for Excellence,” focusing on engaging nursing home direct-care practitioners with updates on best practices, education on PDPM and immersion in expert-led discussions about ‘hot topics’ in long-term care.

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Trauma Informed Care Resources

Though the experience of personal trauma over a lifetime is almost ubiquitous, the possibility that trauma might be an important clinical issue to identify hasn’t been a routine part of my initial patient assessment.  I’ve seldom seen it in the work of my colleagues at an acute hospital or SNF level. 

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One Facility’s Response to Serving Fire Evacuees

by Mark Friedlander
Executive Director
San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living

We at the SF Jewish Home and Rehab Center on the Campus for Jewish Living were contacted by SFDPH late Friday afternoon October 25th to inquire about our current census and bed availability due to the Kincaid fire evacuations. However, it wasn’t until 9 p.m. on Monday night, October 28 that we were asked to open our doors to 3-5 frail evacuees currently at the Santa Rosa Evacuation Center. Since we did indeed have some private rooms available, we of course said yes, we would welcome them into our community. The first guest arrived at midnight, followed by two others around 3 a.m.  Internally we activated our Incident Command that met twice a day to ensure our visiting residents were adjusting well and that their care needs were being met. 


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Rules Governing Use of Antipsychotics Loosened; What Should We Do About It?

As we approach the November 28, 2019 deadline to fully implement the Phase 3 changes in the “Mega Rule,” it is important to note that some of the “changes” that were implemented in Phase 2 are expected to change in Phase 3. Specifically, under Phase 2 rules, antipsychotics could not be prescribed PRN for more than 14 days unless a resident was examined by a prescriber (every 14 days). This was ostensibly to avoid the issue of off-label overprescribing of antipsychotics in our population, especially those suffering dementia-related psychosis (DRP) or other behavioral issues that could not be attributed to an Axis 1 diagnosis of a mental condition (i.e. bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression, etc.). The rule as written mentioned a tendency to “place the convenience of the caregivers above the residents’ interests.”

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Passport to Better Care

I recently wrote an article for the WAVE on the potential value of sharing personal pictures on your smartphone, for developing relationships and engaging patients with dementia, prior to providing medication and care plan directed care.  

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Medical Apps – General Principles and Some Recommendations

Do you wonder if you are most effectively using the technology you carry in your pocket? Is your phone cluttered with medical apps that you downloaded and now you can’t even remember what they are supposed to do? Here is a guide to walk you through my approach. Caveats – this is based primarily on my own experience, and I use an iPhone not Android, so my Android info is limited. Medical apps seem to disappear from the app store with remarkable frequency, so please check availability.

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A Taste of AMDA is Evolving

In the second issue of the WAVE for June this year, I wrote about how to access “AMDA on the Go” podcasts, which are offered free to post-acute and long-term care professionals.  Over the summer, AMDA has added a number of new features including expert discussion from the Colorado Geriatric Journal Club, and now, practical clinical applications from the August issue of JAMDA.  In this podcast, Dr. Philip Sloane, the new co-Editor-in-Chief, summarized take-home lessons from: Increasing the Value of ER visits, Reducing Avoidable Transfers, Quantifying the Impact of Incomplete nursing home transfer documentation, and Measuring the Value of High-Intensity Telemedicine in Senior Living communities.  I found this podcast to whet my appetite for the details of these articles, which I can now more effectively share with my facilities and home health agency.

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Is “Picture Talk” a Valuable Intervention In the Care of Persons with Dementia?

In recent years, I have used pictures I’ve taken on my smartphone or received from others, as part of how I relate to my patients.  Pictures are a powerful way to share common human experiences that even my advanced dementia patients can find interesting. Most of these pictures are of my dog or grandchildren or places in the area that have a story associated with them.  I commonly will then ask my patients about their experiences with similar circumstances.  

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Telemedicine or No Telemedicine: This is the Question

The debate and enthusiasm about telemedicine visits, as an alternative for an in person visit, are lurching in parallel tracks. Early adopters who are using it in rural areas have mainly adopted Telehealth for behavioral health and possibly dermatological consults. 

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Court of Appeals Says Epple is Still in Effect: CANHR v. Smith Decision

In late July, after some four years of legal wrangling, a California Court of Appeals decision was handed down in the CANHR v. Smith (previously CANHR v. Chapman) case, which had sued the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to challenge the constitutionality of Health & Safety Code 1418.8, also known as the Epple Law. This law, in effect for over 20 years in California, allows the interdisciplinary team (IDT) in a nursing home to make decisions—including giving informed consent for interventions that require it—on behalf of incapacitated, unrepresented residents.  

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San Diego CALTCM Leaders Partner with HSAG for Learning

Earlier this summer, health care professionals from all over San Diego County met to learn about current trends in post-acute care and hospital readmission efforts.  Hosted by Health Services Advisory Group under the guidance of Debra Nixon and her colleagues, and with local assistance from CALTCM board members Parag Agnihotri, MD, CMD and Karl Steinberg, MD, CMD, HMDC, this half-day collaborative event drew about 150 attendees.  

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Update on Disclosing Medical Errors

In a February 2017 WAVE, I asked the question whether your facility had been stress tested (see link to this article below).  At one of my facilities, I had become aware of a serious medication error and activated a process with some of my colleagues and the administration on how to best manage the consequences of this error.  This patient and family appreciated the timely disclosure and proposed care plan adjustments, as well as our commitment to better understand what happened so that we could minimize the risk of similar future errors.  To date, there hasn’t been a lawsuit or payout with this case.

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CA End of Life Option Act 2018 Data Report

As an internist who has entered my 41st year in private practice, I have followed our state's experience with this act hoping like many of my colleagues that those accessing this option would only do so after much thought, council, and access to good palliative care.  

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New Changes in the CMS Nursing Home Compare Five-Star Quality Rating System

Five-Star Quality Rating System (QRS) has been developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to assist consumers compare nursing homes more easily based on their performance on health inspection(s), staffing and quality measures (QM) domains. Over the years, CMS has updated and enhanced the five-star QRS methodology numerous times to improve the accuracy of the rating system. The nursing facilities and medical directors need to stay up-to-date with all the changes in the 5-star QRS.  

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The Shortage Of Tuberculin Antigens; Can Anything Be Done?

For as long as most of us can remember, we have been subject to regulatory oversight regarding testing for tuberculosis in our residents. For most of us, this equates to a “mandatory” skin test upon admission (as well as mandatory tests for our employees!) to check for possible “exposure” to TB. The efficacy of these tests, or even the accuracy of chest x-rays, in diagnosis of the disease is tenuous at best, but we still must comply with the regulation.

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Should You Be Concerned About the “Integrity” of Your Facility’s POLST Forms?

In 2008, I attended the UCLA LMG (Leadership and Management in Geriatrics) course that has continued under the leadership of CALTCM.  I was paired with a nursing professor at Sacramento State who was quite helpful as a mentor for my project which was the implementation of the new POLST Form in Sonoma County.  I teamed with Susan Keller, who energetically partnered with many people and provided detailed trainings in many settings of care. Sadly, despite our efforts, I still find POLST forms initiated by frontline SNF admitting nurses that don’t have choices congruent with the ones I find on my assessments.  In addition, many of the forms fail to record basic information like care contacts, presence of AHCDs/DPOAs, and who assisted with completion of the form.  

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