By nature of caring for the elderly, a portion of society that is more prone to accidents resulting in injury, Long Term care (LTC) facilities must have caring, attentive physicians working at their facilities to reduce the potential for claims. Nursing home professional liability insurance will aid in defense of lawsuits, but prudent behavior and a sound risk management plan will be equally beneficial.
The recent escalation in nursing home litigation has, unfortunately, adversely affected the practice environment in the nursing home community. These facilities must take steps to assure relatives that loved ones left in their care will be properly treated, otherwise any fears or concerns will only be heightened when, and if, an incident occurs.
A well-trained staff can reduce accidents resulting in claims
Owners must take every precaution to ensure that they do not put physicians at risk, placing them in situations that could leave them vulnerable to litigation. Although a medical director may not even have knowledge of an incident which has occurred, he or she may be asked to give a deposition to ascertain that, had they known about the incident when it occurred (and had intervened at the time), the clinical outcome would likely have been more favorable to the resident. They should be doing everything in their power to reduce the likelihood of a threat to the quality of care for their frail, elderly attendees.
Effective risk management requires identifying litigation-prone areas and implementing preventive or corrective actions throughout a facility. The areas of concern common among most facilities are pressure ulcers, malnutrition and dehydration, and injurious falls. Other areas that should be addressed to reduce any possible concerns include adverse drug events, burns due to unsafe smoking practices, elopement, untreated and/or undiagnosed changes in a medical condition, and improper discharge of a resident.
The best defense against litigation, aside from nursing home professional liability coverage, is simply improving the quality of care. In order to reach this goal, owners of the nursing home, along with administrators and employees, must address existing issues, and attempt to improve overall care. This plan must include the presence and active participation of the attending physician and medical director, and be carried out in a way so that all team members feel a responsibility to help improve care within the facility.