Practice Areas

Patients and Their Family Members Are Being Advised to Research Hospitals and Nursing Homes

By Jennifer R. Becker

According to a recently published study of 40 million Medicare patient records, the quality of care provided by American hospitals varies widely. Patients have a 46% lower risk of experiencing a safety incident at a top rated hospital compared to a poorly rated hospital.

This study was published by HealthGrades, which is one of the largest independent health care ratings companies and has been acknowledged by major news sources, medical publications and medical research companies. Medicaid patient records were analyzed from 2007 to 2009, focusing on common patient safety indicators that help identify preventable medical mistakes that occur during patient hospitalization. These patient safety indicators include incidents such as; foreign objects left inside a body following surgery, excessive bleeding or bruising following surgery, bed sores, catheter-induced bloodstream infections, post-operative respiratory failure and post-operative sepsis.

The frequency in surgical errors and other incidents of medical malpractice was widely differentiated among hospitals. According to the study, there are life-and-death consequences associated with where a patient chooses to seek hospital care. Patients are being advised to do something they rarely ever do, namely, to do comparative research on hospitals before being admitted to one.

Significantly, Cleveland and Toledo are on the list of the 10 U.S. cities nationwide with the lowest incidence of patient safety incidents.

Similar to the great disparity that exists in the quality of care provided by hospitals across the country, the variance is just as likely to occur at nursing homes where reports of malpractice, abuse and neglect are steadily on the rise in virtually all states. This alarming report begs the question - how can families ensure that their loved one will receive the best possible care at a nursing home facility?

Experts who work with the elderly suggest that family members should research nursing homes to greatly increase the likelihood that a nursing home patient is provided with optimal care. This research should include; finding out how much time staff members at a home spend with residents, reviewing the costs, visiting several times and at different times, observing interactions among staff and residents, sitting down and asking hard questions of senior management at each facility, asking for qualifications of management and staff, inquiring about employee wages, the turnover rate and criminal records among staff and asking anything else that seems relevant. The bottom line is that patients and family members are being encouraged to research, make onsite visits and ask pertinent questions.