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Episodes and Flu

In today’s lively discussion we will discuss the subtle differences between periods of time referred to as episodes and drive home the reason it matters.

It’s that time again. Most patients who were admitted or recertified to home healthcare this month and for the next several months will have some part of their care delivered after October 1. This is really important to note because any patient who is discharged or transferred to an inpatient facility on or after October 1 will receive some part of their care in the ‘Influenza Vaccine Data Period’. The specific questions about vaccines can be found in the OASIS transfer and discharge assessments beginning with M1041.

M1041 is a trick question. It asks if any part of the ‘episode of care’ include any dates on or between October 1 and March 31. Most veteran home health nurses understand that an episode of care is quite different from an episode which is a 60 day period of time. Newer nurses and therapists may not pick up on the nuances differentiating an Episode of Care from a generic 60 day episode.

An Episode of Care begins at admission OR Resumption of Care and ends at the time of Transfer or Discharge. Got that? As such, an Episode of Care can be equal to a 60 day episode but it could also be longer or shorter than a plan episode.

Let’s take a look, shall we? In the illustrations below, the grey arrows represent generic 60 day episodes. The white boxes will show various events that might occur creating an Episode of Care that is different from a plain episode.

Episode of Care equals generic episode

In the next example, an Episode of Care equals two regular episodes.

2 episodes – 1 Episode of Care

The last example shows how multiple Episodes of Care can occur within one episode. The white squares are one episode of care while the black squares represent the second Episode of Care.

2 Episodes of Care in 60 day episode

Since the actual questions are not asked until transfer or discharge, the challenge is to make the information readily available for the clinician who completes the transfer or discharge OASIS. It is also your challenge if you perform transfers and discharge assessments to make sure you have the information available.

Why is this important?

  1. Many agencies have outcomes posted on Home Health Compare indicating that you really don’t care if your patients get the flu. Or worse – you really want the patient’s to get flu.
  2. Value Based purchasing will likely include information about vaccines. ‘Value Based Purchasing’ means agencies with good numbers will make more money and that money will come from poorly performing agencies. If that doesn’t alarm you, break it down. Do you really want to fund an increase in revenue to your largest competitor who knows how to distinguish between Episodes of Care and generic 60 day episodes?
  3. The flu kills a whole lot of people every year and our elderly are the most vulnerable. While there is concern about the validity of the published numbers, nobody doubts that the flu can take a senior citizen with heart failure out of the game permanently. In 2013, the CDC reports that over 50,000 people died from the flu but last year the number was likely under 5,000. The flu varies wildly and waiting to see how bad it will be does not work.

Most assessment tools in computer software or handwritten, include questions about vaccinations on admission and resumption of care. The problem is getting the information right. The checkboxes are not completely trustworthy without dates.

So, M1041 researches patients on service from Oct. 1 through March 31. It isn’t until M1046 which strangely directly follows M1041 with no mention of 1042, etc. that the clinician is asked if the patient had a flu shot. There are 8 possible responses.

  1. Yes; received from your agency during this episode of care (SOC/ROC to Transfer/Discharge)
  2. Yes; received from your agency during a prior episode of care (SOC/ROC to Transfer/Discharge)
  3. Yes; received from another health care provider (for example: physician, pharmacist)
  4. No; patient offered and declined
  5. No; patient assessed and determined to have medical contraindication(s)
  6. No; not indicated – patient does not meet age/condition guidelines for influenza vaccine
  7. No; inability to obtain vaccine due to declared shortage
  8. No; patient did not receive the vaccine due to reasons other than those listed in Responses 4 – 7.

Going back to the second diagram showing how one Episode of Care can go on through discharge over multiple episodes, it is easy to see how the correct response might be hard to find. If you’re really not fond of your coworkers, imagine that it could be you out there doing the discharge and having to click through 200 or so screens to find where a nurse offered the vaccine.

The information reported on Home Health Compare reflects only the number of patients who have received the flu vaccine. If they received it from you during another Episode of care, their physician or any other provider, they obviously go into the mix. What does not get counted are the patients who have been offered and declined the vaccine.

Your numbers should be very close to 75 percent on home health compare. If they are not, there is a really good chance somebody does not understand the differences between an Episode of Care and a 60 day episode.

There it is. Three pages, three unskilled illustrations and almost 100 words so your clinicians will be able to correctly assess whether or not your patients have been vaccinated against the flu. It shouldn’t be this hard, folks. And guess what? We haven’t even touched on Pneumonia or Shingles. Let’s see what washes out in the final regs, first.

Good Luck

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