Arguments have been made that the culture of nursing homes (NHs) must change to improve the quality of care, and two initiatives have been designed to accomplish this goal. One initiative is to provide resident outcome information (quality indicators) to NH management and consumers via public reporting systems. This initiative is based on the assumptions that resident outcomes are related to care processes implemented by NH staff, the NH industry will respond to market forces, and there are management systems in place within NHs to change the behavior of direct care staff if outcomes are poor. A separate staffing initiative argues that NH care will not improve until there are resources available to increase the number of direct care staff and improve staff training. This initiative also assumes that systems are in place to manage staff resources. Unfortunately, these initiatives may have limited efficacy because information useful for managing the behavior of direct care providers is unavailable within NHs. Medical record documentation about daily care-process implementation may be so erroneous that even the best-intentioned efforts to improve the care received by residents will not be successful. A culture of inaccurate documentation is largely created by a discrepancy between care expectations placed on NHs by regulatory guidelines and inadequate reimbursement to fulfill these expectations. Nursing home staff have little incentive to implement the technologies necessary to audit and assure data quality if accurate documentation reveals that care consistent with regulatory guidelines is not or cannot be provided. A survey process that largely focuses on chart documentation to assess quality provides further incentive for care-process documentation as opposed to care-process delivery. This article reviews methods to improve the accuracy of NH medical record documentation and to create data systems useful for staff training and management.
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