Outcomes Research in Review

Implementation of a Communication Training Program Is Associated with Reduction of Antipsychotic Medication Use in Nursing Homes


Tjia J, Hunnicutt JN, Herndon L, et al. Association of a communication training program with use of antipsychotics in nursing homes. JAMA Intern Med 2017;177:846–53.


Study Overview

Objective. To evaluate the effectiveness of OASIS, a large-scale, statewide communication training program, on the reduction of antipsychotic use in nursing homes (NHs).

Design. Quasi-experimental longitudinal study with external controls.

Setting and participants. The participants were residents living in NHs between 1 March 2011 and 31 August 2013. The intervention group consisted of NHs in Massachusetts that were enrolled in the OASIS intervention and the control group consisted of NHs in Massachusetts and New York. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Minimum Data Set (MDS) 3.0 data was analyzed to determine medication use and behavior of residents of NHs. Residents of these NHs were excluded if they had a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indication for antipsychotic use (eg, schizophrenia); were short-term residents (length of stay < 90 days); or had missing data on psychopharmacological medication use or behavior.

Intervention. The OASIS is an educational program that targeted both direct care and non-direct care staff in NHs to assist them in meeting the needs and challenges of caring for long-term care residents. Utilizing a train-the-trainer model, OASIS program coordinators and champions from each intervention NH participated in an 8-hour in-person training session that focused on enhancing communication skills between NH staff and residents with cognitive impairment. These trainers subsequently instructed the OASIS program to staff at their respective NHs using a team-based care approach. Addi-tional support of the OASIS educational program, such as telephone support, 12 webinars, 2 regional seminars, and 2 booster sessions, were provided to participating NHs.

Main outcome measures. The main outcome measure was facility-level prevalence of antipsychotic use in long-term NH residents captured by MDS in the 7 days preceding the MDS assessment. The secondary outcome measures were facility-level quarterly prevalence of psychotropic medications that may have been substituted for antipsychotic medications (ie, anxiolytics, antidepressants, and hypnotics) and behavioral disturbances (ie, physically abusive behavior, verbally abusive behavior, and rejecting care). All secondary outcomes were dichotomized in the 7 days preceding the MDS assessment and aggregated at the facility level for each quarter.

The analysis utilized an interrupted time series model of facility-level prevalence of antipsychotic medication use, other psychotropic medication use, and behavioral disturbances to evaluate the OASIS intervention’s effectiveness in participating facilities compared with control NHs. This methodology allowed the assessment of changes in the trend of antipsychotic use after the OASIS intervention controlling for historical trends. Data from the 18-month pre-intervention (baseline) period was compared with that of a 3-month training phase, a 6-month implementation phase, and a 3-month maintenance phase.

Main results. 93 NHs received OASIS intervention (27 with high prevalence of antipsychotic use) while 831 NHs did not (non-intervention control). The intervention NHs had a higher prevalence of antipsychotic use before OASIS training (baseline period) than the control NHs (34.1% vs. 22.7%,  P < 0.001). The intervention NHs compared to controls were smaller in size (122 beds [interquartile range {IQR}, 88–152 beds] vs. 140 beds; [IQR, 104–200 beds];  P < 0.001), more likely to be for profit (77.4% vs. 62.0%,  P = 0.009), had corporate ownership (93.5% vs. 74.6%,  P < 0.001), and provided resident-only councils (78.5% vs. 52.9%,  P < 0.001). The intervention NHs had higher registered nurse (RN) staffing hours per resident (0.8 vs. 0.7;  P = 0.01) but lower certified nursing assistant (CNA) hours per resident (2.3 vs. 2.4;  P = 0.04) than control NHs. There was no difference in licensed practical nurse hours per resident between groups.

All 93 intervention NHs completed the 8-hour in-person training session and attended an average of 6.5 (range, 0–12) subsequent support webinars. Thirteen NHs (14.0%) attended no regional seminars, 32 (34.4%) attended one, and 48 (51.6%) attended both. Four NHs (4.3%) attended one booster session, and 13 (14.0%) attended both. The NH staff most often trained in the OASIS training program were the directors of nursing, RNs, CNAs, and activities personnel. Support staff including housekeeping and dietary were trained in about half of the reporting intervention NHs, while physicians and nurse practitioners participated infrequently. Concurrent training programs in dementia care (Hand-in-Hand, Alzheimer Association training, MassPRO dementia care training) were implemented in 67.2% of intervention NHs.

In the intervention NHs, the prevalence of antipsych-otic prescribing decreased from 34.1% at baseline to 26.5% at the study end (7.6% absolute reduction, 22.3% relative reduction). In comparison, the prevalence of antipsychotic prescribing in control NHs decreased from

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