At least we still have AHCA — or is that TMI?

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

There's an informal nickname that describes the many acronyms being used in healthcare these days: alphabet soup.

To get an idea of how chunky the proverbial soup has become, consider this recent headline from a state association's e-newsletter: “LSN Meets With HFS and MCOs on MMAI!” Four acronyms in a single headline. That just might be an Olympic record.

It's not hard to see why acronyms have become so ubiquitous. They save both time and space. And they are sometimes better known than the mouthful of words they represent.

Consider NIC. Most people are very well aware of this organization, and its important role in helping bring capital to the seniors housing sector. But if you were to roust providers in the middle of the night and ask them to recite NIC's full title, I'd be willing to bet that less than half of them would accurately say “National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.” Actually, people suddenly awakened for that purpose would be more likely to utter suggestions that challenge the limits of anatomy and physics.

Among the major groups in this field, none has adjusted its moniker more frequently than LeadingAge. This organization — which represents more than 5,000 nonprofits — was previously known as the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, or AAHSA. Before that, it was simply The American Association of Homes for the Aging, or AAHA. Back in those halcyon days, it was always fun to see the Hawaii chapter mentioned. The title was almost invariably shortened to “HAHA.” Guess you had to be there.

Compared with these two groups, the American Health Care Association offers a relatively rock-ribbed example of acronym stability. To borrow and twist a phrase from Richard Nixon, we've had AHCA to kick around for more than five decades. In fact, the only recent change we've seen here has been an addendum. When the association — which has more than 10,000 members – carved out an assisted living wing, the latter became known as the National Center for Assisted Living, or NCAL. These days, press releases from the association sometimes offer this self-identifier: AHCA/NCAL.

By some estimates, there are more than 500 healthcare-related acronyms now in use. And thanks in no small part to Obamacare, many more will soon be joining the fray. But FWIW, while that may not change your POV, some of them may help you LOL.

Enjoy the soup.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.