As you are undoubtedly aware, lawyers routinely scour the Department of Safety and Health public surveys of skilled nursing and assisted living communities, searching for evidence of abuse. And they usually find plenty to keep them in business.
An October article in McKnight’s referenced this practice and included comments from Neville Bilimoria, a Partner at Chicago-based Duane Morris LLP. Bilimoria, who recently addressed a session of the American Health Care Association in Nashville, had this to say. “The number of assisted living cases has eclipsed the number of nursing home negligence cases in the county I’m in, which is pretty remarkable.” Even more remarkable is that the trend, according to the article, has spread throughout the U.S.
With more freedom and privacy for assisted living residents comes higher risk.
The increase in negligence cases is, at least in part, a by-product of the massive effort by today’s assisted living communities to create a more homelike atmosphere; one in which residents’ choices and personalities are respected along with their privacy. Unfortunately, that increased freedom brings with it the increased potential for a life threatening event, such as a fall or other issues stemming from insufficient or lack of proper medications, should a resident refuse to take them.
These events can be found in the public surveys. And lawyers know it. As Bilimoria points out, “You get a lot of good information about negligent care in those public documents. Don’t kid yourself for a second. Plaintiffs [‘ attorneys] scour surveys, survey reports of our assisted living facilities.”
The number one deficiency they are finding? Medication administration.
Of course, once an issue is identified, the community is at risk for a major lawsuit; one that could have a debilitating, long term effect.
Technology, while it won’t solve all issues, is proving to be a major factor in helping curtail medication errors. Applications are emerging which range from simple computerized prescription entry programs to more robust, scalable solutions. One such solution, Talyst’s InSite® System, includes on-demand, on-site packaging and delivery technology providing automation for all processes — managing, packaging, labeling and delivering “just-in-time” oral solid medication doses. Working together, this helps close the gap on medication management by:
- Ensuring an exact dose every time
- Providing bar coding with patient ID
- Eliminating outdated medicatio
- Reducing nursing staff fatigue and stress
Medication errors are the number one reported issue. However, there are plenty of others for skilled nursing and assisted living providers to worry about. Additional legal risks pointed out in the article include resident care, the maintenance and building code, ongoing resident assessment, resident admission requirements, staff training, food service, administrative record-keeping, emergency preparedness and abuse/neglect reporting/investigation.
As Bilimoria states, “Each one of those translates into a potential lawsuit. That’s what plaintiffs have learned from the skilled nursing facility litigation.”
What are you doing to keep operations tight and quality of care high in a new, more relaxed senior living environment?