​Whether or not a facility is high tech, tracking and analyzing data are key to quality improvement. LTC Trend Tracker, an American Health Care Association (AHCA) member service, enables communities to compare staffing levels, resident characteristics, survey findings, revenue and cost, Medicare utilization, and quality measures with other communities locally, regionally, and nationally. This benchmarking and performance improvement tool lets users view data broadly across the spectrum or drill down by facility or ownership type or other characteristics.

“This information allows facilities to identify areas where performance is greater or lesser than their peers,” says William Hartung, vice president, research, at AHCA. “While it doesn’t give them all the answers about what specific changes they need to make, it does help them identify questions to ask staff to determine how quality improvement might be accomplished.” By analyzing reports, facility leaders identify opportunities for improvement.

It the same time, the reports help facilities see where they are performing significantly better than others in their state, region, or nationally. Hartung says, “LTC Trend Tracker enables facilities to see if their patient distribution is different from their peers and if they are missing out on marketing opportunities that highlight their successes,” Hartung says. “We want people to know if their staffing is at a high level and they have the lowest rate of pressure ulcers or falls in the state.”

Staffing is a prime concern for facilities, and Trend Tracker helps facilities see how they compare with others. “We want them to think about the relationship between staffing and outcomes. We want them to see what facilities with different staffing levels look like,” Hartung says.

While facilities could collect this data on their own from a variety of sources such as Nursing Home Compare, pulling all of these data and trying to distill them to manageable, useful information would be very time consuming. As Hartung says, “These data are available in many places and are well-summarized here. We drill down to the information most valued and requested by providers that will most likely support their quality improvement efforts.”

The data in LTC Trend Tracker are updated constantly. However, users, says Hartung, generally “can look at it once every two to three months and get a good sense of what’s going on.” A growing number of members are embracing Trend Tracker, and the feedback is consistently positive. “We hear how they have a greater handle on data and are more confident about how to use this information to manage quality,” says Hartung. “We are hoping that people will take this information, and it will become intuitive to them.”

The growing popularity of LTC Trend Tracker, along with the increased use of HIT in long term care, suggests that facility leaders understand the value of data. “More than ever, they have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening. They recognize improvements and changes they can make that not only will improve quality but impact survey findings,” Hartung says. “They realize that facilities that track and analyze data on a regular basis have an advantage over those that don’t.”