Do you have an elderly relative living in a nursing home? Or perhaps you might have even spent time recovering from surgery or extended illness in a skilled nursing facility until you were well enough to return home. If so, the following may be of interest.
In recent years, ProPublica investigated patient care at skilled nursing facilities around the nation. Their startling report indicated that fully a third of the patients experienced infections, medication errors or other harm from treatment they received.
A physician review revealed that 59 percent of patients’ injuries and errors they were subjected to could have been prevented. Of those who suffered harm, over half were readmitted to hospitals.
According to experts in patient safety, there are more incidents of patient harm from skilled nursing care than in-patient hospital care. However, hospital errors typically get the bulk of negative attention.
Study focus and breadth
In this research study, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) examined skilled nursing care in nursing homes. They followed patients for as long as 35 days post-discharge from acute care hospitals. Doctors randomly selected 653 patients on Medicare at over 600 facilities.
They discovered 22 percent suffered adverse events that caused permanent harm, with 11 percent experiencing temporary harm. In 1.5 percent of patients studied, deaths occurred due to poor care. These deaths were unexpected even when patients suffered from several ailments, the study determined.
Causes of skilled nursing mortality rates
While no one single cause stood out from the rest, some common recurrences included:
— Delays in care
— Failing to provide patients with necessary care
— Substandard treatments
— Inadequate patient monitoring
Preventable deaths occurred as a result of fluid imbalances, embolisms, kidney failure and blood loss from anticoagulant medications.
Protecting the medically vulnerable Medicare population
What is particularly egregious about these injuries, illnesses and deaths is that they occurred in populations typically identified as medically vulnerable due to advanced age and failing mental and physical health. Often, these patients are unable to grasp that they are receiving substandard care and cannot advocate for themselves if they do understand.
It is important, therefore, for relatives and friends of those who receive treatment at skilled nursing facilities to remain in touch with the patients and aware of their medical status. You may be the one who has to take legal steps to protect a patient when the care they receive is inadequate.