April 2010 Archives

April 4, 2010

Technology for Incontinence Management Could Help Pennsylvania Nursing Home Patients


McKnight's Long Term Care News recently reported that Australian nursing homes have begun using a new tool that promises to significantly reduce staff time devoted to managing patient incontinence: electronic underpants. This technology, called the Smart Incontinence Management System, or SIMsystem, uses an electronic moisture sensor that detects when a patient has had an accident. Then, SIMsystem sends a text message or page to staff to let them know that the patient needs their assistance. SIMsystem can be used with disposable diapers, and the article suggests that it can cut staff time spent on incontinence significantly.

As a Philadelphia nursing home neglect lawyer, I was interested in this news because more attentive care for incontinent patients could also help prevent bedsores, a common problem for nursing home patients. Bedsores form when patients are left in the same position for too long, but excess moisture from incontinence is one typical way they are aggravated. However, an electronic system can't prevent bed sores all by itself, obviously. Nursing home staff members still need to tend to patients regularly and appropriately. And even with the aid of innovative technology in patient care, adequate staffing is necessary to make sure that patients' treatment plans are followed and that there are enough staff members to go around. As a Pennsylvania nursing home abuse attorney, I hope that nursing homes that outfit incontinent patients with the SIMsystem will not assume that this new technology means that they can get away with fewer staff members. Understaffing in nursing homes can lead to serious failures in patient care, including but certainly not limited to pressure sores. As a Philadelphia injury lawyer i believe that adequate staffing must be a top priority to make sure all the residents needs are met.

Patients in nursing homes have the right to expect that they will be well cared for, regardless of what kind of technology the nursing home employs. Paralyzed or otherwise immobile patients develop bedsores because they are unable to shift positions on their own. The Mayo Clinic's Web site points out that elderly patients have thinner skin than young people do, so they are more susceptible to bedsores. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's data show that 1 in 10 nursing home patients suffered from bedsores in 2004, showing just how common this injury is in nursing homes. The presence of severe bedsores can be evidence of nursing home negligence.

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April 2, 2010

Pennsylvania Families Should Beware of 'Worthless Services' in Nursing Homes


According to a recent Washington Post article, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is investigating rampant fraud and abuse in Medicare billing for "high-end services" at nursing homes. The Justice Department said nursing homes have been categorizing patients inappropriately in billing forms in order to receive higher payments from Medicare for "services not rendered, and ... worthless services." This article caught my eye because it's yet another example of the wrongdoing that nursing homes and their staffs can get up to right in front of patients who are unable to clearly object or tell an outsider. As a Pennsylvania nursing home abuse attorney, I wonder whether nursing homes that try to make higher profits by overbilling Medicare are also more likely to try to generate profits by overmedicating or financially abusing patients.

The article alleges that nursing homes have been categorizing many more of their patients in "ultra-high" Medicare billing categories than can be justified by those patients' medical records. Medicare has annually paid out up to $542 million more than it should have for services for these patients. The recently enacted health care reform legislation changed the rules to combat this problem, which is considered part of the "waste, fraud and abuse" that both parties oppose. Certain nursing home chains have been singled out as especially egregious offenders, including HCR ManorCare, which operates in cities throughout Pennsylvania.

The article does not specify the kinds of unperformed services for which nursing homes charged Medicare. But with the recent settlements for pharmaceutical company kickbacks to nursing homes for overmedicating patients for profit, as a Philadelphia nursing home negligence lawyer, it seems fair to wonder whether a nursing home that cheats in one way isn't dishonest in other ways too. I am glad that the Department of Health and Human Services is thoroughly investigating these patterns of fraud and putting nursing homes on notice that increasing profits through fraudulent claims is unacceptable. Hopefully, the increased scrutiny will encourage nursing homes to be more conscientious in all aspects of their work. It is important as As a Philadelphia injury lawyer to stay vigilant with regard to these nursing home practices.

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