Mixed Results for Hospital Efforts to Lower Rate of Bedsores

The rate of bedsores, or pressure injuries, declined 23 percent between 2010 and 2014. However, the decline in bedsores across the country is mostly caused by a reduction in early-stage sores, according to a new report by Health Affairs. According to the study, early-stage bedsores comprised 96 percent of the nationwide reduction in bedsore rates. The rate of late-stage bedsores, which are more harmful and expensive, has mostly remained constant over the past decade, according to the published research.

Bedsores are one of the most common and preventable medical errors occurring in hospitals across the country. Bedsores, also called pressure injuries or pressure sores, can be excruciatingly painful and may not heal for months or years. In many cases, this preventable medical error does not heal – an estimated 60,000 Americans die each year from bedsores, according to Health Affairs. For these reasons, federal and state governments across the country have cracked down on hospitals and nursing homes with high rates of pressure ulcers. Beginning in 2008, Medicare began paying less to hospitals with high rates of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers. States across the country have also heightened enforcement by tracking the rates of pressure ulcers at hospitals across the state and imposing various penalties for hospitals with above-average rates of pressure ulcers.

In response to heightened scrutiny by the government, hospitals implemented better procedures to prevent and treat bedsores. The efforts of hospitals across the country have been largely successful. Overall, the rate of patients inflicted with preventable bedsores decreased from 4 percent of patients to 3 percent in just four years, resulting in savings of over $1 billion. These results, however, do not support a “victory lap,” according to Jennifer Meddings, senior author of the study.

Bedsores still cost over $10 billion to treat each year and late-stage bedsores constitute the majority of that cost. In addition to the enormous financial burden, many hospitals have still not adopted “best practices” when it comes to identifying and monitoring high-risk patients, according to Meddings. By adopting these recommendations, the hospital will both save money and reduce its rate of hospital-acquired bedsores. The greatest benefit, however, will be to the patient who will go to the hospital and feel better, not worse.

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