Illinois nursing home neglect may outstrip hospital errors

Hospitals have been the focus of most patient safety studies, like a 2010 Department of Health and Human Services report that estimated substandard hospital care was responsible for 180,000 patient deaths annually. Federal officials also have been concerned about standards of care outside hospitals. A new Medicare report suggests medical malpractice is widespread.

Cook County skilled nursing facilities provide rehabilitative and other services for patients discharged from acute care hospitals. Ninety percent of the nation’s 15,000 skilled nursing facilities also offer extended nursing home care. If the Medicare study is as true as some doctors believe, patients in skilled care are at even greater risk of injuries than hospital patients.

Medicare randomly chose 653 patient records from 600 skilled care facilities in August 2011. Government researchers learned one-third of patients had suffered injuries due to medical errors and concluded 59 percent of the mistakes could have been avoided. Nursing home neglect also was tied to deaths in 1.5 percent of all cases.

By applying the numbers to a nationwide scale, the government estimated medical errors injured nearly 22,000 skilled care patients and caused more than 1,500 deaths every month. The cost to correct monthly mistakes – subdue infections and readmit patients to hospitals — was $208 million.

The disturbing report prompted Medicare to turn to the agency’s research and quality division and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare wants CMS to pressure state health inspectors to promote nursing home patient safety. Medicare conducts nursing home inspections yearly and more often when complaints are investigated.

One-fifth of all Medicare patients hospitalized in 2011 were admitted to skilled care facilities. Patient safety advocates said 40 percent of Americans 65 or older will be nursing home residents at some point in their lives. If Medicare’s study is representative of the true picture, a large number of Illinois’s aging population are already victims of nursing home neglect.

Source: ProPublica, “One Third of Skilled Nursing Patients Harmed in Treatment” Marshall Allen, Mar. 03, 2014

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Illinois nursing home neglect may outstrip hospital errors