Assessment Contacts are one of the most important tools that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) uses to monitor the quality of aged care services. Through Assessment Contacts the ACQSC Assessors collect and evaluate evidence to determine how well an Aged Care Home has complied with the Aged Care Quality Standards (Quality Standards).
Assessment Contacts can happen announced or unannounced, any time, any day of the week, and can cover any of the requirements in the Quality Standards. The prospect can be daunting and stressful, but these tips can help you feel a little more cool and confident.
This first part of our “How to Manage Aged Care Assessment Contacts” series will cover the first stage of the Assessment Contact process: the entry meeting.
Recap on Definitions
Assessment Contacts, Site Audits, Review Audits – what’s the difference? All this terminology can take a while to grasp so let’s start with a brief recap.
This article will focus on Assessment Contacts that involve Performance Assessments, as opposed to Assessment Contacts that only involve monitoring. For more general information on how aged care assessments work, see our article: The Aged Care Quality Standards: How Will Compliance Be Assessed in 2020?
Arrival and Entry Meeting: An Overview
When they arrive on site, the ACQSC assessment team will show their identification and request consent to enter the premises. The request for consent is mostly a formality as Providers have a legal duty to co-operate with the Assessors and probably can’t refuse entry without a very good reason.
The Assessors will then conduct an entry meeting with the person in charge of the aged care service. At the entry meeting the Assessors will:
- ask you to produce key documents
- ask you seven “risk screening questions” to determine the focus of the Assessment Contact (unless the focus has already been determined).
The Assessors may also consider the four “Evidence Domains” when determining the focus of the Assessment Contact.
Key Documents that the Assessors Will Request at the Entry Meeting
Certain key documents must be provided to the Assessors at the entry meeting or within an hour afterwards. You can see a detailed list of the documents here, but in sum they are:
- a complete list of consumers in the service
- record of consumers who are receiving psychotropic medications or are subject to physical restraint
- the contact information for consumer representatives
- clinical incident management information records and any trends analysis
- complaints register for the previous six months, including consumer/representative name
- consolidated records of incidents involving allegations or suspicions of reportable assaults for the previous six months, and
- for Site Audits only, personnel information for service staffing in the week prior to the assessment.
Practical Tips for Managing Your Key Documents
Seven Risk Screening Questions to Determine the Scope/Focus of the Assessment Contact
With over 40 separate requirements in the Quality Standards, the ACQSC Assessors probably won’t cover every requirement in a single Assessment Contact. Instead, they will focus on particular areas. This is what the ACQSC means by the “focus” or “scope” of the assessment (the ACQSC uses the two terms interchangeably).
To determine the focus of the assessment, the Assessors may consider general areas of concern in the aged care sector (such as infection control) or the compliance history of the particular Provider. But, most importantly, they will also determine the focus by asking these seven questions during the entry meeting:
- Have there been any adverse findings by another regulatory agency or oversight body in the last 12 months? (e.g. Healthcare complaints commission or similar, Food safety authority, Workcover, etc).
- What trends do your complaints data show you?
- How many consumers are receiving pressure area care?
- Have there been any medication incidents in the past 6 months where a consumer required hospitalisation or attention by a medical officer?
- How many consumers have had falls and required medical attention in the past 3 months?
- How many consumers at the service are currently receiving psychotropic medications? (To be captured as a rate or percent of total consumers at the service.) How many consumers are restrained in order to manage risks to themselves or others at the service? (To be captured as a rate or percent of total consumers at the service.)
- Can you tell me about incidents in the past 6 months where a consumer or staff member has required medical attention as a result of challenging behaviour from a consumer?
Practical Tips for Dealing with the Seven Questions
The Four “Evidence Domains”
The ACQSC’s recently-introduced “Evidence Domains” may also affect the focus of the Assessment Contact. According to the ACQSC’s revised Assessment Methodology, “An assessment contact will include one or more of the four evidence domains”, which are:
- Dignity, respect, choice and complaints (Standards 1 and 6)
- Care planning and personal and clinical care (Standards 2 and 3)
- Lifestyle and service environment (Standards 4 and 5)
- Governance and human resources (Standards 7 and 8)
What does this mean for Providers in practice? Effectively it means that there is now a “minimum scope” for Assessment Contacts. That is, you won’t be assessed on your compliance with just one Standard – at minimum, you will be assessed on your compliance with a pair of Standards.
Preparation is the key to a successful entry meeting. But how do you prepare for something that could happen at any moment without warning? The simple, but difficult answer is that you always need to be prepared. The practical tips in this article can help with this, but the process also involves a shift in mindset. To sustainably manage Assessment Contacts you need to change your thinking from reactive to proactive; from the panicked “compliance scramble” done every now and then to the steady “compliance system” maintained every day.
About the Authors
As a Registered Nurse with over 30 years’ experience across the healthcare industry, Ruth has been employed in a range of management and clinical positions, and for several years worked as a consultant in residential aged care. Understanding organisational governance, risk and related quality standards has been a pivotal part of her work practices and has included maintaining and monitoring of legislative and regulatory requirements, as well as developing linked policy documents. Ruth is Principal Consultant – Aged Care, at CompliSpace.
Jennifer is a content development assistant in our Sydney Office. She recently graduated from the Juris Doctor, from the University of Sydney and completed her final semester at the University of Vienna. After completing an undergraduate degree in the field of medical sciences at Sydney University, and commencing an honours in neuroscience, she decided that path wasn’t for her. She is now convinced about her passion for the law, and has experience assisting in a variety of legal matters from commercial law, including litigation, to family law.