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Improving Safety of Transitions to Skilled Nursing Care Using Videoconferencing

ECHO-Care Transitions is a healthcare outreach program utilizing videoconferencing technology to improve the quality and efficiency of care transitions for medically-complex elderly patients by connecting post-acute care facilities that receive BIDMC patients with a multidisciplinary BIDMC team that sends these patients following discharge. This case-control study seeks to determine if ECHO-CT can improve clinical outcomes and reduce cost and resource utilization during transitions of care in both an academic (BIDMC Boston) and community (BIDMC Needham) hospital.

Our prospective cohort study of the ECHO-CT intervention will take place in the two Boston-area hospitals, one providing tertiary care and one community-based care, in which the outcomes of patients transferred to Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) associated with these hospitals will be compared to those transferred to SNFs from similar hospitals in New England. We will also be comparing outcomes from individual patients enrolled in the ECHO program to matched controls. Using a national database available from the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research, the outcomes of Medicare beneficiaries residing in SNFs that are participating in ECHO-CT will be compared to those in the comparison group using a difference-of-difference analytic approach. Analyses will be adjusted for potential confounders as appropriate.

In this study, the investigators also plan to measure satisfaction as well as process, utilization, cost and patient safety outcomes to determine best practices for implementing the program at a community hospital and affiliated SNFs.

Data will be obtained from the following sources:

Protected health information (PHI) from resident assessment data, as well as Medicare claims and enrollment data to be obtained via a data use agreement (DUA) with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research during years 2-3 of the study to include the following:

The resident Minimum Data Set Resident Assessment (MDS) assessments. The MDS has nearly 400 data elements including cognitive function, communication/hearing problems, physical functioning, continence, psycho-social well-being, mood state, activity and recreation, diagnoses, health conditions, nutritional status, oral/dental status, skin conditions, special treatments, and medication use. The assessments are done for all patients admitted to Medicare and Medicaid certified SNFs, including enrollees in both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. These data will already be housed at Brown University,Brown has an active DUA to obtain quarterly pulls of the population of MDS assessments .
Medicare claims which will be used to ascertain 30-day costs, re-hospitalizations, and use of other medical services by Medicare fee for service (FFS) patients admitted to the SNFs. The data also include diagnosis fields to ascertain comorbidities.
Medicare enrollment file includes demographic information such as sex and race, dates of birth and death, and various indicators of Medicare/Medicaid eligibility, Part D eligibility, and Medicare Advantage enrollment.
BIDMC will collect and share ECHO-CT participating patient's social security number and health insurance claims number with Brown University. Their clinical information will be matched with control patients from the Medicare claims data to show study effect on 30-day costs, re-hospitalizations rate and patient length of stay.
In addition to aggregates derived from above, facility level data will come from the Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reporting (CASPER) data, which are publicly available and based upon facility surveys for Medicare/Medicaid certification. They will be used in addition to data from "Nursing Home Compare and the Long Term Care: Facts on Care in the US (LTCFocus.org) websites to describe the SNFs.

Intervention-specific data: Project-specific quality improvement data derived from questionnaires, staff satisfaction surveys, and structured meeting minutes will be designed and evaluated by BIDMC and Hebrew Senior Life

SNF Satisfaction: Every 6 months the investigators will send a satisfaction questionnaire to the hospitals and SNFs participating in ECHO-CT to assess their views of the ECHO-CT sessions, the value of time spent, feelings of empowerment, inter-professional relationships, learning, and recommendations. All answers to the survey questions will be kept strictly confidential. This information will be used to improve the content and organization of the sessions and to develop tools for dissemination (Aim 3). The investigators will develop the satisfaction questionnaire during the first 6 months of the project, building upon our previous survey experience and literature review. Metrics to quantify the quality of transitional care will be derived from the work of Coleman et al.3 and incorporated into the questionnaire. Survey design and evaluation will be conducted by the outcome evaluation group under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Travison at Hebrew SeniorLife's Institute for Aging Research.
Process assessment: The investigators will keep attendance logs to assess adherence to the ECHO-CT intervention and its changes over time. Any consistent decline in staff attendance for 2 or more weeks will be followed up by phone calls to assess barriers to participation and corrective actions will be taken. These may include changing to a more convenient time, identifying other providers who can attend instead, contacting facility administrators or medical directors for their support, and providing incentive gifts or continuing education credits In addition, during each ECHO-CT session, the hospital based team will inquire about unexpected outcomes or issues that arose during the transition process, including those related to patients already discussed. This element will allow for an ongoing technology-enabled learning platform and continuous quality improvement mechanism over the course of the proposed project. The value of the video-conferencing approach is that it creates a mutually trusting learning community in which "all teach and all learn."