April 2010 Archives

Under current Medicare guidelines, hospitals are no longer reimbursed for additional care resulting from pressure ulcers (also known as bed sores or decubitus ulcers) as the government has determined that development of bed sores at a hospital is a so-called "never event."  Additionally, hospitals cannot bill patients directly for such care.  The denial of reimbursement for such reasonably preventable treatment errors should provide hospitals with financial incentive to institute and implement appropriate patient safety measures geared toward preventing the development of bedsores. 

While there has been discussion about extending this policy to include long term care facilities including nursing homes and assisted living centers, nursing homes are not presently subject to these guidelines.  Nursing homes are therefore presently permitted to receive payment for care and treatment related to bedsores that develop in their facilities, while hospitals cannot.  This writer firmly believes that these Medicare "never events" guidelines should be extended to include nursing homes and other long term care facilities so that these facilities will have the same financial incentive as hospitals do to improve patient safety measures relating to preventing the development of bedsores.

Like hospital patients, nursing home residents are often at risk for developing bedsores as a result of their underlying medical problems and/or mobility issues.
A pressure sore/decubitus ulcer is a bedsore caused by unrelieved pressure on the skin that comes from lying in the same position too long and is associated with pain.  Patients experience pressure from their bed and/or chair to certain points on their skin preventing the blood from flowing into those points.  Because the blood is not allowed to flow into those points, the skin, deprived of nutrients and oxygen, can become injured and susceptible to infection.

A stage 1 ulcer presents as redness of the skin without a break in the skin and represents tissue injury that does not disappear when pressure is relieved.  A stage 1 ulcer is classified as nonblanchable erythema with intact skin.  Erythema is redness of the skin produced by congestion of the capillaries.  Erythema is the initial reactive hyperemia caused by pressure, and nonblanchable erythemia represents stage 1 pressure ulcer.

A stage 2 ulcer is characterized by partial-thickness skin loss, that is, the epidermis is interrupted as an abrasion, blister or shallow crater.

A stage 3 ulcer features full-thickness skin loss involving damage or necrosis of subcutaneous tissue that may extend to, but not through, the underlying fascia.  The ulcer appears as a deep crater, with or without undermining of adjacent tissue. 

A stage 4 ulcer involves full-thickness skin loss (exposing bone or muscle) with extensive destruction, tissue necrosis, or damage to muscle, bone, or supporting structures (e.g., a tendon or a joint capsule).

Once a bed sore has progressed to stage 3 and stage 4, it is difficult to achieve healing and avoid painful and potentially fatal complications.   With stage 3 or stage 4 pressure sores, the extent of the disease may not be evident because of covering necrotic material or eschar.  To establish the extent of the disease and promote healing, the necrotic material needs to be removed and surgical consultation may be required.  When ulcers develop over bony prominences, osteomyelitis is a potential complication.  Pressure ulcers are chronically contaminated wounds and the combination of bacteremia and pressure sores can be painful and life threatening.

Fortunately, as reflected by Medicare's "never event" guidelines, pressure ulcers may be entirely avoidable so long as proper care and preventative measures are instituted and implemented by the health care provider.  The time is right to extend these "never event" guidelines to include nursing homes and other long term care facilities.

Please feel free to contact the nursing home neglect attorneys at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of bed sores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), nursing home falls, dehydration/malnutrition, medication error/prescription mistake, elder abuse or elder neglect.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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