Christiana Care agrees to review DOC healthcare system

DOVER — Christiana Care Health System has agreed to provide an independent healthcare system review at no cost to the Delaware Department of Correction, the agency announced on Thursday.

According to newly-minted DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis, the review was agreed upon after she approached Christiana Care.

“I think it’s important to have an independent assessment of the quality of care being delivered in our correctional facilities and Christiana Care has national recognition for its high quality standards,” she said. “They’re really a true community partner — they offered to do this at no charge. They see it as part of the community service they offer our state.”

Claire DeMatteis

The DOC provides healthcare services through several contractors and agency administrators.

“The state of Delaware contracts with a healthcare provider for mental health and substance abuse treatment and then a separate contractor for medical care (Connections Community Support Programs),” noted Ms. DeMatteis. “That vendor, provides the nurses, physicians, and counselors — we supplement with some of our own counselors too.”

The review will examine the agency’s medical and behavioral health care systems and make recommendations to strengthen clinical quality, patient safety and data management practices. The DOC, through its Bureau of Correctional Healthcare Services, is responsible for contracting medical and behavioral health services in all of its Level V (prison) and Level IV (work release and violation of probation) facilities and behavioral health services provided to individuals on probation after their release from incarceration, the agency noted in a press release. Though Christiana Care does not have expertise specific to prison care, its recommendations will be based on health care industry standards for quality.

“At Christiana Care, we serve our neighbors as respectful, expert, caring partners in their health,” Bettina Tweardy Riveros, Christiana Care chief health equity officer, said in a statement. “We are especially focused on working with partners throughout our community to meet the physical and behavioral health needs of our most vulnerable populations. We are glad to provide our health care expertise to the DOC, and we hope that our recommendations will enable them to ensure the delivery of quality care in its facilities and make a positive impact on the health of our community.”

The six-week review, which will begin the first week in September, will conclude with a written report that provides prospective recommendations on opportunities to enhance clinical quality and safety by adopting best practices regarding workflow management, data and analytics management and support. The DOC will provide the data, documents, information and access to personnel and facilities that is necessary for Christiana Care to perform its work, said the agency.

Christiana Care’s review will include interviews with DOC staff and contracted medical personnel, site visits and review of policies, procedures and process documentation at DOC facilities. It will also seek to identify opportunities to enhance utilization of clinical data and analytics to facilitate management of chronic medical conditions. The review may include clinical chart reviews for a random sample of patients, but Christiana Care will not evaluate or make medical assessments or recommendations in individual diagnoses, treatment plans or other medical services made by individual health care providers or provided to individual patients.

The Christiana Care review will supplement existing quality assurance measures employed by the Bureau of Correctional Healthcare Services in focus areas of infection prevention, general environment of care, pharmacy and equipment inventory.

Earlier this year the agency’s medical contractor, Connections CSP, came under fire. It was announced in mid-May the state’s attorney general would investigate the provider regarding allegations that staffers were ordered to forge documents to falsely state that inmates were getting mental health treatment they never received.

Allegedly, the DOC did its own review of the claims and found nothing wrong. But Gov. John Carney’s administration and DOJ felt it wasn’t sufficient.

The investigation is only the latest sign of problems within the state’s prison health system, which was the target of a federal investigation more than a decade ago.

“It’s upsetting that so many years down the road, and we’re still not apparently getting what we’re paying for,” Gov. Carney said when the investigation was announced. “That’s just unacceptable.”

However, Ms. DeMatteis says the review is unrelated to this and rather is focused on providing her staff with a comprehensive look at DOC’s current standards.

“This assessment is not about Connections,” she said. “It’s about me understanding the quality control standards we have in place and how we’re delivering healthcare to offenders. I can’t base my assessment about how well we’re doing on newspaper articles and a lawsuit, I need data. I need to understand how we stack up against healthcare industry standards for patient safety, disease management and continuity of care.

“That’s the goal of this assessment. We need an independent, comprehensive review of the quality of care being delivered in our correctional facilities.”

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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