Full speed ahead as Sloan closes in on first anniversary atop LeadingAge

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

After 13 years as the No. 2 executive at LeadingAge, Katie Smith Sloan wasn't concerned about discovering a lot of unexpected duties as president and CEO this year. And she was right — nothing new has really knocked her socks off, she says.

Now if somebody could just get the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to turn down the fire hose. While Sloan knows the ropes well, it's still a battle for anyone who would have the federal regulatory agency spraying 712 pages of new nursing home requirements and other regulatory burdens at her members.

“There's been so much coming at our nursing home members in particular,” Sloan told me in advance of her group's annual meeting and exhibition in Indianapolis next week. “It's an enormous amount to sort out. We've been trying very hard to introduce to members that they can absorb it in bite-sized pieces.”

Some of the new requirements should be things operators have been doing for years, she pointed out, echoing regulators. But there are also new wrinkles that have had her regulatory team “working around the clock” to bring members up to speed.

“The biggest challenge is what goes to the head of the list [to address] as a provider already doing a whole lot of other things,” Sloan shared. “How do you pivot to make sure you're in compliance with all of these things, and also taking care of the residents and clients you serve? That's something members are going to have to figure out in the context of their own organizations.”

Providers have less than five weeks to come into compliance with the first, and biggest, phase of the new rules.

Sloan noted that various communications and conference calls have been underway to make information and advice available in “very digestible formats.” She emphasized that while more than 5,000 people are expected to attend the LeadingAge confab Sunday through Wednesday in Indy, most of the work remains outside that gathering. She acknowledged that personally her biggest change since taking over for the retired Larry Minnix has been the near constant travel. She's been gratified to meet members “in their communities, in their board rooms, at their conferences” she quickly notes.

The most important thing she wants operators to keep an eye on is payment reform. It will be critical in order for any operator to stay relevant.

At the head of the chore list is becoming good a partner for hospitals, health systems and other possible teammates in the caregiving spectrum. That, along with “how they define and report quality,” Sloan said.

As she noted, relationships can differ from market to market, and larger provider groups might have several states or health plans to negotiate with. Each could have a different dashboard or criteria.

Complex times are here.

“Partnering with hospitals and health plans is quite different from partnering with churches or Meals on Wheels,” LeadingAge's first female top exec pointed out. “And the stakes are much higher.”

Recognizing a challenge is the first step in overcoming in it, no matter what the endeavor. Sloan has that part fully in hand, and then some. Nine months after landing at the top of the letterhead, she makes it clear she's only getting started.

“We've been focusing on this for some time,” she emphasized, “and we cannot take our foot off the pedal on this one bit at all.”

Follow James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.

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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.