Mark Parkinson speaking.
AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson addresses the opening session
of the 2019 annual conference.

ORLANDO, FL—Positive provider stories are the antidote to the criticism that the long-term care industry continues to hear from lawmakers and others despite making great strides in measures of quality, American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson said Monday to those attending the opening session of the organizations’ 70th Annual Convention and Expo.

“By any objective standard, quality has improved in assisted living buildings and SNFs all over the country,” he said. “Our residents are experiencing less pain. Thousands more are returning to the community. Tens of thousands are not going back to hospitals, and hundreds of thousands have been taken off the antipsychotic medication. What has been accomplished is truly remarkable.”

But the “constant criticism” has not gone away as expected, he said.

“It turns out that people don’t care about data. Policymakers aren’t interested in statistics,” said Parkinson, an admitted “data guy.” “Instead, we have been subjected to more criticism, more congressional hearings, more OIG reports than ever before. In fact, there was data that shows that people care more about individual stories than they do about data.”

An isolated “indefensible” event will be reported by the lay media and lead to a congressional hearing, but “hundreds of thousands of acts of kindness are never going to be in a newspaper,” he said. “There’s not going to be an OIG report on random acts of kindness in America’s nursing homes. There’s never going to be a congressional hearing about the hundreds of thousands of great things are happening in ALs today. But they are real, and they happen.”

Parkinson encouraged members to continue to share their positive anecdotes.

The session’s keynote speaker, author Doris Kearns Goodwin, backed him up. “People remember stories more than facts and figures,” she told attendees as she recounted stories related to the U.S. presidents about which she writes.

Also at the opening session, AHCA Chair Michael Wylie relayed that Parkinson’s contract was renewed for three more years on Saturday, with an option for a two-year extension. “So hopefully we’ll have Mark around for at least another five years,” he said.

NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle said NCAL members must go beyond working to improve quality and tracking data to chart their own course by asking one question: Will this make our residents’ lives better? “It’s simple but powerful,” he said.

“As we speak, there are others who want to set our course for us and determine our future, whether through excess red tape, one-sided media stories or arbitrary standards of care,” Tittle said. “They believe their cause is just in the name of progress, yet we know this is not the type of progress our residents and families need.”

Approximately 2,400 long-term and post-acute care providers and 1,500 vendors are attending the meeting, according to AHCA / NCAL. The meeting continues through Wednesday.

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