When health care professionals put their minds to something, they get it done. The first step is identifying a problem; the next is to share best practices. Then the successes start to pile up.

Hospital Engagement Networks, the Surgical Care Improvement Project and initiatives like these have helped hospitals and others to reduce a vast range of undesirable things, from health care-associated infections to pressure ulcers to antibiotics in hospital meals. We’re a long way from perfect, but progress is being made.

So, here’s something that ought to be a snap to accomplish:
If your health system owns a nursing home or discharges patients into one, you should be aware of a national initiative to reduce the use of antipsychotic medications by 25 percent through the end of next year and by 30 percent through the end of 2016.

There are two reasons this matters to you.

For one thing, we’ve got better ways to care for many dementia patients than by turning them into drugged-out zombies.  So-called person-centered approaches that include one-on-one interactions with caregivers and family members, group therapy sessions, social and physical activities and the like can be more effective and are definitely more humane.

It also matters because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is keeping a closer eye on the use of antipsychotic meds. The move to new payment models shifts the focus to quality and outcomes; the hospital will be judged and reimbursed along with all the other providers involved in a patient’s episode of care across the continuum.

CMS is a member of the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care, a public-private coalition that includes consumers, advocacy groups, providers and professional associations. The Partnership has already achieved significant success in its drive to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs among long-stay nursing home residents. Their use was cut from 23.8 to 20.2 percent nationwide between the end of 2011 and the end of 2013.

Some states have been particularly effective. North Carolina reduced its rate by 27.1 percent and Georgia by 26.4 percent. In September, CMS released a fact sheet with state-by-state data and other statistics from the program.

“Ultimately, nursing homes should rethink their approach to dementia care, reconnect with the person and his or her family and use a comprehensive team-based approach to provide care,” said Patrick Conway, M.D., deputy administrator for innovation and quality and CMS’ chief medical officer.

“We have created many tools for nursing homes to use to achieve these goals,” he noted. To learn more, click here.