Breaking Down the Nursing Home Chart

nursing home chart, nursing home medical records, long term care chart, LTC chart, MDS 3.0 Nurses without long term care experience may be very hesitant to review one of these cases due to their lack of knowledge of these industry specific records. Once you understand where important information is located within these medical records you can use them to support your analysis of the matter.

One of the most mystifying parts of the nursing home chart is the Minimum Data Set (MDS). The MDS is a standardized instrument used to assess all nursing home patients. It is a comprehensive assessment of the resident’s physical and functional abilities and cognitive status and includes indicators of delirium, fall history, diagnoses, wounds, nutritional status, restraint use, continence status, and more. The nursing and therapy notes and other documentation should be reviewed to ensure the information in the MDS is accurate.

Depending on the timeframe for the care being reviewed, the chart may contain an MDS that may be either version 2.0 or 3.0. After extensive review, the Federal government released the 3.0 version on October 1, 2010. The Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI) now consists of the Minimum Data Set (MDS) 3.0, the Care Area Assessment (CAA) Process, and the RAI Utilization Guidelines. The MDS 3.0 was refined to include many changes including, but not limited to, a focus on pain assessment and discharge planning, when assessments should occur, some changes in coding, and the use of Care Area Triggers (CATs) rather than Resident Assessment Protocol (RAPs). The MDS 3.0 focuses on resident participation through multiple interviews. The “look back period”, the time frame the MDS assessment is based upon, is seven (7) days for all areas unless otherwise noted on the assessment.

There are 20 CAA’s that can be triggered by the MDS responses. The identified triggers are used as a guideline for development of the individualized plan of care. The staff may override the trigger or decide to proceed and create a plan of care. For example, nutritional status may be triggered due to recent weight loss. However, the staff may override the trigger by indicating a recent history of bilateral above the knee amputations, thus justifying the recent weight loss or less than ideal body weight status. The CAA’s should be reviewed to ensure that all potential risks have been appropriately triggered and addressed in the plan of care.

While the Plan of Care (POC) is not paperwork specific to long term care, it is a very critical document and must be closely reviewed to ensure every risk unique to that resident has been addressed and that the POC is individualized to the specific needs of that resident. The care plan is a dynamic tool that should be updated as the needs of the resident change. For example, if the resident is at risk for falls and the goal indicates the resident will have no falls with injury within the next 90 days and that resident does indeed fall and sustained injury, the plan of care must be updated. You should expect to see new interventions to prevent falls.

Therapy documentation is critical to long term care cases. When a resident is involved in PT, OT or ST you will find frequent documentation which can be crucial, especially when there are few nursing and physician notes. Therapy notes will usually describe the resident’s functional ability, level of pain, subjective statements, cognitive status, and safety recommendations. Always be sure to review the therapy records thoroughly and compare these assessments to the nursing notes, physician notes, MDS, and care plan. Likewise, important information may be found in the social services notes as documentation regarding discharge plans, family concerns, and social history is likely recorded in this section.

Don’t allow your lack of familiarity with long term care records hold you back from an interesting case review. Your knowledge of the records outlined above will provide you the ability to thoroughly understand the residents’ needs and determine whether they were met. This information is just a brief overview of a few of the records. However, part of being successful is self educating and knowing how to find the information you need. Identifying a long term care nurse that you can call with questions as needed might just provide you with the added confidence needed to say “Yes” when asked to review a nursing home case. To learn more about record reviews and how to WOW your clients check out this information on how to polish your writing skills.

Angie Duke-Haynes, RN is President of Premier Medical Legal Consulting, LLC, co-owner of Legal Nurse Consulting Institute, LLC and co-presenter of an all new webinar on polishing your writing skills.

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