Wall Street Journal Examines Hospital Efforts To Reduce Pressure Sores

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Pressure Sores

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined howhospitals across the U.S. "are scrambling to put new programs in placeto prevent pressure ulcers," or bedsores, after CMS last month announcedthat starting in October 2008 it no longer will provide reimbursementsfor eight preventable medical errors. In 2006, there were 322,946reported cases of pressure ulcers as a "secondary diagnosis" inhospitalized Medicare beneficiaries. Treating severe ulcers thatrequire surgery can cost up to $70,000, according to studies.


According to the Journal,health care experts "agree that bedsores are a classic example ofpreventable harm: Despite strong evidence of effective strategies forprevention, guidelines are frequently ignored or overlooked." The Journalreports that "[p]art of the problem is a nationwide nursing shortagethat makes for a more harried and chaotic hospital environment," butthere also has "been no real incentive for prevention programs."

CMSofficials say the new payment policy will provide strong incentive forhospitals to screen patients who might be at risk for developingpressure ulcers. Hospitals can receive reimbursement for treatment ifthey can document that the ulcer was present when the beneficiary wasadmitted. Critics of the rules say that unreimbursed costs fortreatment will lead to higher medical charges for all patients.

Toprevent ulcers, "hospitals are pushing screenings of all incomingpatients from head to toe for skin issues that could lead to pressureulcers" using visual examinations, ultrasound and other technologies,the Journal reports. In addition, a number of qualitygroups are working with hospitals to implement new prevention programs"using lessons learned" from hospitals that have "sharply reduced oreven eliminated pressure ulcers," according to the Journal (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 9/5).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.