Last week, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a national report concerning care in nursing homes. NPR detailed the findings in a recent news article.
With data gathered from 2008 to 2012, the study followed 653 Medicare beneficiaries who stayed in skilled nursing care facilities for 35 or fewer days after being discharged from a hospital. Out of this group, 22 percent experienced adverse events and an additional 11 percent went through temporary harm. According to physicians’ observations, 59 percent of these instances could have been prevented.
What does the report classify as “adverse events”? This term encompasses all instances of staff failing to provide necessary care, medical errors, substandard treatment, negligence, and medication errors. As the latter composed a large percentage of all “adverse events,” it’s estimated that nearly half of all these instances could have been avoided. In certain instances, the patients end up going back to the hospital to receive additional care.
The report further goes into why these instances happen. As we have touched on before, the gradual corporatization of nursing home care, even at skilled facilities providing post-hospital treatment, means the staff members get stretched thin and workers do not receive proper training or always follow procedures.
The report, which can be read in full here, further went onto estimate the potential costs of these errors – thought to be larger once long-term care patients are factored into figures. Based on these observations, Medicare spends an estimated $208 million on hospitalization following nursing care errors.
Rather than leave on an unfinished note, the report provides the following recommendations to lower these figures: Get the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to increase awareness about nursing home treatment and to implement strategies to reduce harm, such as providing better training and having states review practices to reduce “adverse events.”