healthcare trends

Patient Safety in Nursing Facilities

For the millions of people who rely on nursing homes for their healthcare and assistance with daily needs, safety is a critical component. Nursing homes and skilled care facilities have a duty to provide competent, compassionate, and safe care to residents. Preventing illnesses and injuries is a key part of risk management, supplementing the protection of nursing home insurance. In this guide, we will explore best practices for nursing home staff to ensure patient safety for residents. 

Vulnerable Populations in Long-Term Care

Patients in nursing homes often have significantly higher risk factors in terms of safety. Many residents have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications resulting from injuries and illnesses. These patients are often older and with more chronic illnesses than patients in many other healthcare facilities. Mitigating risks is a vital part of nursing home insurance, but protecting patients is dependent on the facility, its managers, and its staff to implement safety-oriented operating procedures. 

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, approximately 2000 residents of nursing homes die each year from injuries received in their residential facilities. Many of these deaths were the result of complications from slip and fall injuries. On average, about 25% of all nursing homes in the U.S. receive at least one regulatory citation for causing a serious injury each year. Many of these injuries are preventable and require both nursing home insurance and robust risk management practices to prevent.

Nursing Home Injury Prevention: Best Practices

It is important to understand that many of the injuries occurring in nursing homes are preventable. How can nursing home managers and staff reduce the frequency and severity of injuries? This prevention requires a multi-pronged approach that begins with identifying the safety hazards present within each facility. Injuries can take many forms, including:

  • Slip and fall injuries.
  • Adverse drug events.
  • Infections.
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores).
  • Violence and abuse.

The next step in fighting injuries is to provide education and training for caregivers. Safety training must be conducted on an ongoing basis to ensure all staff members have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in preventing patient injuries. 

Staffing has long been an issue in long-term care. Many facilities are understaffed, especially as caregivers reach retirement age and younger healthcare professionals seek work in other settings. Inadequate staffing is a serious risk exposure for nursing homes and not one that is easily covered by nursing home insurance. Managers must ensure that the ratio of staff to residents is sufficient to prevent injuries, particularly from claims of neglect. 

Adopting a safety-oriented workplace culture has been shown to reduce injuries in industries of every size and type. In the healthcare sector, hospitals and ambulatory clinics lead the way in safety, while nursing homes lag behind. While the situation is improving, long-term care industry experts suggest that creating incentive programs to encourage nursing homes to prioritize patient safety can further reduce preventable injuries. 

Facility owners and managers must ensure that nursing home insurance is adequate and robust enough to provide protection for facility assets, staff, and residents. Injury claims can result in steep financial hardships, and even the best nursing home insurance plan cannot withstand excessively frequent or expensive claims. Reviewing insurance policies on an annual basis can help pinpoint gaps in coverage and inform decisions about coverage for emerging risk exposures. 

Finally, state and federal regulators have spearheaded efforts to improve patient safety in nursing homes. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed revisions to the participation plans for Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement by requiring long-term care facilities to focus on quality and safety in healthcare delivery. While not every injury is preventable, nursing homes can and must do more to protect their vulnerable residents. By adopting a safety-oriented approach to healthcare delivery in long-term care settings, patients can experience improved outcomes. 

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.