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 Antipsychotic Use Plummets As Advocates Near Quality Goal, Association Claims

Long term care providers have slashed their use of antipsychotic medications by nearly 6 percent, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) is expected to announce today. For AHCA members, the off-label use of antipsychotics fell by nearly 7 percent, the association will say in a conference call with media.

Hospital readmissions also fell last year, AHCA is expected to announce: The number of patients shipped back to hospitals within 30 days of discharge fell a single percentage point, to 18 percent nationally, according to statistics released by the association.

The association has set an ambitious goal of cutting the off-label use of antipsychotic meds by 15 percent, industry-wide. Nearly two-fifths of association member facilities had already achieved that goal by the last quarter of 2012, according to AHCA statistics.

“When we rolled out these Quality Initiative goals last year, we knew they were ambitious,” AHCA Board Chair Neil Pruitt Jr. said in a news release.

“While we may not have reached our 2012 year-end goal for antipsychotics, that doesn’t negate the nearly 3,000 member facilities that have achieved our goal nor, more importantly, the 11,349 individuals living with dementia who will enjoy a better quality of life without these medications.”

Critics have long maintained that long term care providers were using antipsychotic drugs as a kind of opiate to sedate patients with dementia. AHCA and other long term care advocates have made clear they want to get ahead of the problem. AHCA’s 15 percent reduction goal jibes with standards set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“By partnering with CMS, developing resources for our members and promoting person-centered care, AHCA brought significant awareness to this often misunderstood issue last year,” said David Gifford, MD, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at AHCA in a news release. “But we still have work to do. AHCA is confident we can continue this momentum and will reduce the use of antipsychotics by 15 percent before the end of this year.”

AHCA had also set a goal of reducing readmission rates to 15 percent. Nearly one-quarter of the association’s members had reached the goal by the end of 2012, according to group statistics. The reductions may have saved Medicare up to $140 million, ACHA claims.

Gifford said the readmission statistics were “encouraging,” but that much work still remains to be done.

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