Preventable Medical Errors in Rehab Hospitals and Nursing Homes

People go to rehabilitation hospitals to continue treatment following a devastating injury or serious medical care. However, there is new evidence that a significant number of patients actually suffer more harm during their rehab stays due to preventable medical errors.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released its report into medical mistakes at independent rehab facilities throughout the country. The patients described in the study were relatively healthy; they had to be able to tolerate three hours of intense therapy a day for five days a week. The rehab patient population largely includes those recovering from strokes, joint replacement surgeries, and traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries.

Almost Half of Rehab Medical Errors Found to be Preventable

Of the 417 Medicare records it reviewed from March 2012, the agency found that almost three out of every 10 rehab patients suffered an additional injury during their treatments. The injuries ranged from temporary and minor to those that required a transfer to another facility. About one-fourth of the patients were sent to acute-care hospitals for additional care.

And there were patients who died because of medical mistakes at the rehab facilities.

The study says that 46 percent - almost half - of those medical adverse events uncovered during rehab stints were preventable. Physicians who reviewed the patient records said the preventable injuries were largely due to a couple of substandard medical care factors:

  • Failure to provide the required treatment
  • Inadequate monitoring of rehabilitation hospital patients

More specifically, the majority of rehab facility adverse events were medication mistakes, bed sores, and patient falls. (In 2015, the Missouri Hospital Association reported that patient falls were one of the top preventable medical mistakes for the state's hospitals as well.)

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, established following the noted actor's catastrophic spinal cord injury, recommends prospective patients and their families consider several issues when selecting a rehab center, such as:

  • What experience does the facility have with a specific condition or diagnosis
  • Facility staff to patient ratio
  • Professional accreditations of the facility

One Third of Nursing Home Patients Suffer a Medical Error

HHS did not include the nation's skilled nursing facilities in its latest report, but a large number of nursing home patients suffer from medical errors as well.

The agency did a similar study of Medicare patient records in 2014 and reported that a third of all skilled nursing facility patients experienced complications from a serious medical error, including blood clots, excessive bleeding, and kidney failure. And 59 percent of these medical mistakes were deemed preventable.

Patients should not endure additional harm when receiving treatment at a rehab hospital or skilled nursing home. If you or a loved one experienced a catastrophic mistake in care at such a facility, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to review your case.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

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