John O'Connor

Professionals in this field may be divided on many issues. But when it comes to the possibility that federal standards and regulations might be put in place, there is universal agreement: nobody wants that to happen.

But despite the unified front, there are growing signs that states eventually might have to hand over the keys to the police department.

Most recently, an editorial appearing in a prestigious medical journal called on senior living operators to consider practices now in play on the skilled care side.

“It’s time to recognize the need for national standards,” wrote Paul R. Katz, M.D., CMD, professor and chairman of the Department of Geriatrics at Florida State University; Alan Kronhaus, M.D., co-founder and CEO of Doctors Making Housecalls; and Steven Fuller, D.O., Ph.D., vice president and corporate medical director of Dillsburg, PA-based Presbyterian Senior Living. Their comments appear in JAMDA, the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

This latest call for change follows a Government Accountability Office report that slams states for, well, incompetence. Specifically, the report found that more than half of all states could not report the number of “critical incidents” (things like abuse, neglect and resident exploitation) taking place at communities within their borders. To be sure, these recent revelations are likely to enliven what already has become a lively debate.

But although many senior living operators have been fighting to keep states in charge, another development just might make such efforts moot. And that development goes by the name of applied analytics.

It’s a tool that is proving far more adept at revealing caregiving practices than surveyor reports. Lest you get the impression that I am painting analytics as a new enemy, hear this loud and clear: Analytics will be an indispensable tool for operators hoping to become business partners with hospitals and other sources for residents.

As a practical matter, that means operators are going to have to prove their worth with numbers. As to whether the referees should be local or national? If the numbers don’t add up, will it really matter?

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].