The Right Week to Quit Taking Antipsychotics…

Good afternoon, ProviderNation.

This morning, our friends at the American Health Care Association held a confab about quality.

The good news is, nursing homes have cut down on their use of antipsychotic medicines for patients with dementia, and re-hospitalizations are down, too. The bad news is, they’ve got a ways to go.

Last year, AHCA set a goal of cutting off-label use of antipsychotics by 15 percent. Nearly two-fifths of AHCA’s members have met the goal already, and overall, AHCA members had cut at a higher rate, nearly 7 percent, than the national average (about 6 percent). “We know that it is an achievable goal,” said Neill Pruitt Jr., AHCA’s board president, and chairman and CEO of his family’s long term care company. “I’m very pleased with our progress.”

The efforts mean that some 11,350 people with dementia who had been taking antipsychotics improperly aren’t doing so anymore. But AHCA Senior Vice President David Gifford, MD, acknowledged that “it took a little while” to get the word out to providers about antipsychotics.

“We anticipate hitting the 15 percent goal this year,” he said.

There is also some resistance from families and family doctors, Gifford says. About 75 percent of long-term patients who are on antipsychotics came to their facilities already on the meds. “Many of the physicians and the families think these medications are effective, and they don’t want to stop. That’s where we have the trouble,” Gifford said at Monday’s news conference.

Pruitt has seen antipsychotic use fall by more than 25 percent in his company’s homes. He says he’s sanguine about the year ahead.

“One of the biggest issues that we’ve had … is the speed at which we can get the education out to our membership. Once the information is available … we are able to make meaningful improvement in these statistics. It’s not whether we can do it—it’s the speed at which we can do it.”

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