APTA: New SNF Payment System Should Drive Quality Patient Care, Not Staff Layoffs

Fewer than 48 hours after the launch of a new Medicare payment system for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), APTA began receiving word from physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) that a number of providers were announcing layoffs or shifts to PRN roles with reduced hours and fewer or no benefits. Many were told by their employers that the new system, known as the Patient-Driven Payment Model, or PDPM, was the reason for reduced staffing levels and less therapy.

There’s one problem with that explanation: it isn’t true.

That’s the message APTA is delivering to SNFs, association members, and the media as it works to debunk myths surrounding a system that was designed to support clinician decision-making and push SNFs toward a more patient-focused payment model.

Full story at APTA

Target introduces adaptive Halloween costumes for kids with disabilities

Halloween costumes are more inclusive than ever before, thanks in part to Target’s latest innovative options. Target’s Hyde and Eek! Boutique range has introduced four new Halloween costumes adapted for kids with disabilities. 

One of the designs allows kids to transform their wheelchair into a pirate ship, complete with a Jolly Roger flag and with waves for wheels. The other turns it into a luxurious purple princess carriage. Both wheelchair covers use “hook-and-loop closures for a secure fit,” and can fit on a variety of chair sizes, according to the Target website. 

The actual pirate and princess costumes are sold separately. They are specifically designed for ease of dressing for wheelchair users, with openings in the back and wide pant legs. 

Full story at CBS News

Physical therapy a potential application for ‘sensitive’ artificial skin

Engineers and roboticists in Europe have invented an artificial skin that can provide wearers with haptic feedback—replicating the human sense of touch—for potential applications in various fields, including medical rehabilitation and physical therapy.  

The work was conducted at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, aka “EPFL”) and published in Soft Robotics.

The artificial skin is soft and supple enough to flex with the wearer’s movements. Its haptic feedback mechanism uses sensors and signals to communicate pressure and vibration.

The team’s key innovation is the development of “an entirely soft artificial skin where both sensors and actuators are integrated,” explains PhD candidate Harshal Sonar, the study’s lead author, in a news item published by the school.

Full story at AI in Healthcare

Interprofessional education aims to foster learning, collaboration among healthcare students

A virtual world may be a feasible learning platform for bringing together students from different healthcare professions and enhancing their understanding of collaborative patient care and knowledge of other health professions, according to a pilot study led by researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine and published online in the Journal of Interprofessional Care.

Interprofessional education (IPE) aims to foster learning and collaboration among healthcare students from different professions, with a goal of enhancing patient care. Scheduling face-to-face learning between students in different programs, however, is one of the largest barriers to implementing this type of learning. The study evaluated a virtual educational environment for its ability to provide IPE in palliative care, which is interdisciplinary by nature.

Full story at News Medical

Where Things Stand, What APTA’s Doing: Fee Schedule, SNF, and HH Rules From CMS

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spends much of its spring and summer churning out regulatory rules for the coming fiscal and calendar years. That means it’s an equally busy time for APTA, its members, and other stakeholders to stay on top of the proposals, respond to whatever challenges emerge, and advocate for change when needed.

This year’s standout challenge: advocacy efforts around the CMS proposed physician fee schedule (PFS). The rule as proposed includes at least 2 troubling provisions that demanded a strong response—1 around how CMS would go about determining whether therapy services were delivered “in part” by a physical therapist assistant (PTA) or occupational therapy assistant (OTA), and another that proposes an estimated 8% cut to reimbursement for physical therapists (PTs) and several other professions.

APTA has been aggressively fighting these changes through comments, creating a platform to facilitate a flood of individual member letters to CMS, multiprovider organization sign-on letters, meetings with CMS representatives, and the latest: a bipartisan letter signed by 55 members of Congress urging CMS to rethink the cuts.

Full story at APTA

Wrist-worn step trackers accurate in predicting patient health outcomes

Determining how far patients with pulmonary disease can walk in six minutes has long been an effective clinical tool to help physicians determine their exercise capacity, as well as to aid in predicting health outcomes and mortality.

Now, in a new study, researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City found that steps measured through a step tracker worn on the wrist can be used to estimate exercise capacity and determine the health status of patients, rather than the standardized six-minute walk distance test, which is usually conducted in a clinical setting.

Using the wrist-worn step trackers, researcher found data may be used in clinical care at higher intervals to effectively monitor patient progress and disease management. Researchers say the results are another example in how wearable and monitoring devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches can be used in patient care to improve outcomes.

Full story at Medical Xpress

CMS Releases a Burden Reduction Rule That Affects a Wide Range of Facilities, Settings

The big picture: An omnibus rule that could ease some regulatory burdens
The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a final rule aimed at reducing Medicare- and Medicaid-related regulatory burdens in a range of settings, from hospitals to home health care. And for the most part, the rule hits its target.

The final rule includes provisions related to outpatient rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies, ambulatory surgical centers, hospitals, CAHs, psychiatric hospitals, transplant centers, X-rays, community mental health clinics, hospice care, and more. For the most part, the changes either lift or relax requirements, giving facilities more leeway in meeting reporting and other duties. CMS estimates the changes will save providers 4.4 million hours of paperwork time and result in $800 million in savings annually.

Full story at APTA

Imagining Grasping May Help Restore Hand Function in Spastic CP Children, Study Suggests

Children with unilateral spastic cerebral palsy (CP) have a preserved ability to imagine grasping with both hands, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that tapping into that ability during rehabilitation therapy could help recover hand function and upper limb movements in children with CP.

The research, “Explicit Motor Imagery for Grasping Actions in Children With Spastic Unilateral Cerebral Palsy,” appeared in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.

Children with unilateral CP, who have one side of their body affected by the movement disorder, have shown impairments in motor imagery (MI) — imagining a motor action without actually moving.

Full story at Cerebral Palsy News Today

Walking patterns may help differentiate types of dementia

The causes of dementia can damage the brain in different ways. Is it possible that these differences may reveal themselves in the way that people walk? A new study that compared walking patterns in people with two types of dementia explored the question.

“Alzheimer’s and Lewy body disease have unique signatures of gait impairment,” state the authors in a recent Alzheimer’s & Dementia paper about their findings.

The researchers suggest that the unique impairments to gait — or alterations to walking pattern — may reflect the specific damage that each disease inflicts on mental function and the brain.

Full story at Medical News Today

Advancements in pain management are giving new options to patients

Hardly a day goes by without the public being warned about the dangers of opioids. But still, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die every day of opioid overdose and the problem is getting worse. A Houston Methodist pain specialist says new advancements in pain management are giving patients options.

Chokshi says if a doctor only prescribes pain medication for chronic or severe pain, it’s important for patients to ask three questions:

  • Are there any alternatives to pain medications?
  • Can we reduce the dosage of the pain medications by combining them with other treatment options?
  • What is the plan for weaning me off of the medications?

Full story at News Medical