By Marshall Allen, ProPublica
Patients may go to rehabilitation hospitals to recover from a stroke, injury, or recent surgery. But sometimes the care makes things worse. In a government report published Thursday, 29 percent of patients in rehab facilities suffered a medication error, bedsore, infection or some other type of harm as a result of the care they received.
Doctors who reviewed cases from a broad sampling of rehab facilities say that almost half of the 158 incidents they spotted among 417 patients were clearly or likely preventable.
“This is the latest study over a long time period now that says we still have high rates of harm,” says Dr. David Classen, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Utah School of Medicine who developed the analytic tool used in the report to identify the harm to patients.
“We’re fooling ourselves if we say we have made improvement,” Classen says. “If the first rule of health care is ‘Do no harm,’ then we’re failing.”
The oversight study, from the office of the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, focused on rehabilitation facilities that were not associated with hospitals. Rehab facilities generally require that patients be able to undergo at least three hours of physical and occupational therapy per day, five days a week. Patients at these facilities are presumed to be healthier than patients in a more typical hospital or a nursing home.
“It’s important to acknowledge that harm can occur in any type of inpatient setting,” says Amy Ashcraft, a team leader for …