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Report: High incidence of preventable medical errors at rehab hospitals

Once a patient is given the green light by a physician to leave the hospital and continue their convalescence in a rehabilitation hospital, they may understandably breathe a sigh of relief. That's because they likely view this development as a step in right direction on their road to recovery from a serious injury, surgical procedure or major medical event like a stroke.

While it's true that patients in rehabilitation hospitals are typically in better shape than their counterparts in a traditional hospital or nursing home owing to their adherence to a rigorous therapy regimen, a recent study shows that they are not necessarily any safer from medical mistakes.

The study, undertaken by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, had a team of physicians and nurses conduct a comprehensive review of 417 randomly selected Medicare patients who recuperated at rehabilitation hospitals across the nation back in March 2012.

Here, the researchers identified 158 incidents ranging in severity from a temporary injury resulting in a longer stay to a major injury resulting in permanent disability or death, and determined that nearly 50 percent of these incidents as a whole were preventable.

Indeed, the failure to provide the necessary care, substandard treatment and inadequate monitoring were all cited as contributing to the most patient harm.

"It's important to acknowledge that harm can occur in any type of inpatient setting," said one of the lead researchers. "This is one of the settings that's most likely to be underestimated in terms of what type of harm can occur."

Some of the other rather notable findings of the study include:

  • 46 percent of the cases involved medication errors
  • 40 percent of the cases involved breakdowns in monitoring that resulted in everything from patient falls to bedsores
  • Roughly 25 percent of the patients harmed had to be re-admitted at a cost of close to $7.7 million

The report concluded by urging both Medicare and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to work together to rectify the problem through the creation of a list of adverse events in rehabilitation hospitals, something both agencies have since agreed to do.

Here's hoping we see some progress sooner than later …

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured by what you believe to be medical malpractice or some form of hospital negligence, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights.  

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