Florida’s redaction redux
Earlier this month, Families for Better Care reported that officials with Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) called the redaction of data elements within the state’s public nursing home and assisted living inspection reports a new effort to comply with federal privacy laws.
But a few clicks on the Agency’s website reveal an inconsistent application of its own redaction policy.
What follows are two documents that contain inspection narrative details. Both documents are found on the Agency’s Florida Health Finder website. The document on the left shows an assisted living inspection that reflects the Agency’s new redaction protocols while the document on the right shows a Final Order sanctioning the facility for statutory noncompliance. Notice that the narrative within the Final Order is lifted nearly verbatim from the redacted inspection report—sans any redactions.
Again, both documents are presently found on the Agency’s website.
AHCA’s wholesale redactions make survey reports choppy and overly confusing for consumers who are working to piece together an overall picture of facility quality.
Families for Better Care remains puzzled by the Agency’s motivation to implement a software platform that is systematically masking nebulous “personal health information” from inspection narratives—information that’s been published in reports for years with, according to AHCA, no known negative consequence to residents or their health information.
We emailed our concerns to AHCA Secretary Justin Senior and requested an immediate discontinuation of the redaction system until, at the very minimum, any flaws are flushed from the system that would impede consumers from obtaining complete inspection information. However, we contend that the best overall outcome for families and consumers is a complete flushing of the system itself. AHCA should just unplug the redaction software and restore how inspection details were previously published to AHCA’s site—as they had been for most of the past decade.
Numerous academic and federal studies have concluded that long-term care consumers want more information about facilities—not less. Let’s hope AHCA listens to consumer demand and stops tampering with what’s been a great resource for families for years.
We are pleased to report that AHCA replied to our concerns and made mention of several noted “enhancements” to the redaction system. The tweaks included:
- Survey dates are no longer redacted in the corner of the Statement of Deficiencies Report.
- Modifications have been made to exclude the various form numbers from being redacted.
- Refinement of redaction terms.
- Removed the redaction of military dates and numbers not associated with resident identification.
- Enhanced the system so the statute, rule and code references are no longer redacted.
Families for Better Care appreciates AHCA’s prompt response and the Agency’s effort to address our concerns. While this is a good first step, more still needs to be done for residents and their families—namely the complete reversal of a vexing policy that’s leaving consumers in the dark about what’s happening in Florida’s nursing homes and other long-term care settings.