In the modern healthcare industry, nursing homes perform a critical, yet often overlooked, role. These facilities are designed to provide long-term care to patients, supplementing and often replacing the care patients receive in hospitals and clinics. Patients are typically the elderly, but many patients afflicted with severe physical and mental disabilities also receive care in nursing homes. As the population of the United States ages rapidly, nursing homes will be expected to overcome numerous challenges and risks. Nursing home insurance helps protect against certain risks, and these facilities must also implement best practices in dealing with the ever-changing face of the healthcare industry.
Looming Challenges in Nursing Home Care Delivery
The healthcare industry is a constantly changing marketplace, with new trends and technologies influencing the ways in which care is delivered to patients. The nursing home sector is not immune to changes, and in the coming years will face new challenges. These challenges include:
- Staffing levels – Many facilities have difficulties in recruiting and retaining competent nursing staff, sometimes leading to increased numbers of patient hospitalizations.
- Financial penalties – Rising hospital readmission rates are a source of significant penalties for nursing homes, which are tasked with reducing this rate.
- Growth of other healthcare sectors – In particular, that of home healthcare, which is reducing private-pay patient numbers for many facilities.
- Monetary challenges – Medicaid reimbursements have declined, and many facilities operate on thin financial margins.
- Increasing care needs of patients – More patients are requiring more intensive care for acute and chronic health conditions, driving staffing workloads and costs upward.
Liability Issues in Nursing Homes
Faced with declining profits, staffing shortages, and high patient workloads, many nursing home facilities attempt to “do more with less”. Unfortunately, this can open the door to liability concerns. Some healthcare facilities may skimp on care, resulting in declining health of certain patients. Family members may have grounds to file a negligence claim against the facility and its staff. While most skilled care facilities continue to deliver compassionate, accurate, and timely care to their patients, negligence and neglect claims represent millions of dollars in annual losses. These losses include settlements and penalties as well as attorney fees. Nursing home insurance is a valuable risk management tool, regardless of healthcare facility. This specialized insurance protects against the financial burdens of legal claims, including claims of negligence and patient neglect.
Best Practices for Nursing Homes
In order to continue thriving in a changing marketplace and to protect against liability concerns, nursing homes need to adopt industry best practices. These practices include initiatives for recruiting, training, and retaining qualified staff members and also include adherence to regulatory standards.
Staffing shortages have long been an issue in nursing homes, with high workloads and relatively low salaries as compared to other healthcare facilities contributing to burnout among skilled caregivers. Nursing homes need to ensure that their staff members are adequately compensated financially as well as given options to manage their workloads and stress levels. Some nursing homes have implemented staff wellness programs, which offer such amenities as gym and weight loss counseling discounts, healthy foods and beverages, and in-facility massage services to help staff cope with the stresses they encounter on the job.
On the regulatory front, nursing homes are well advised to adhere to all federal and state guidelines. Failure to do so can result in steep financial penalties as well as the potential for legal claims against the facility and its staff. Violations of quality standards resulted in nearly $140 million in penalties in a two-year period from 2014-2016; these penalties are only rising in subsequent years. While nursing home insurance provides a certain level of protection against regulatory violations, nothing combats these issues better than continual review and staff training. Regular review of standards and practices is critical in preserving the quality of nursing homes, and facility administrators must implement rigorous training and retraining programs for all stakeholders to help prevent regulatory penalties. With these practices, nursing homes can continue to deliver compassionate care to the patient population that needs it most.
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 317.575.4440.