Many Nursing Home Residents Hospitalized Because of Gaps in Medical Care

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The Boston Globe on Monday examined how specialists estimate that tens of thousands of nursing home residents “must be sent to the hospital each year because of a breakdown in basic medical care at the facilities.” According to the Globe, hospitalization of nursing home residents often results in a number of problems, such as bedsores, infections and declines in health because of immobilization. In addition, the transfer of nursing home residents to hospitals “can be very disruptive and disorienting,” the Globe reports. A study funded by the National Institute of Aging presented in May at a meeting of the American Geriatrics Society finds that, over a five-month period, about 37% of the hospitalizations of nursing home residents in urban areas nationwide were potentially avoidable. According to the Globe, part of the problem is that physicians affiliated with nursing homes often are not available, and, in many cases, they recommend that the facilities send residents to the hospital when their conditions change. In addition, many physicians affiliated with nursing homes send residents to the hospital at the request of family members or to avoid potential medical malpractice lawsuits. In response, some nursing homes have begun to hire nurse practitioners, collaborate with outside service organizations and use telemedicine services (Dembner, Boston Globe, 7/3).

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