Nurse practitioners are key to safer nursing homes

Approximately 25 percent of nursing home residents suffer some form of harm when they are transferred to and from hospitals, according to a 2014 report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Arizona residents may want to know that an ongoing study indicates that nurse practitioners who employ evidence-based practices to enhance the multiple aspects of patient care can improve the nursing home resident transfer process and decrease the occurrence of medical errors.

OPTIMISTIC, which stands for Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical quality and Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care, is a program created by clinician-researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research. Its purpose is to develop the quality of patient care and avoid excessive hospital transfers by enhancing the levels of care and communication at nursing homes and between hospitals and nursing homes.

In its initial stage, researchers examined almost 600 hospital transfers to and from 19 nursing homes. Within 48 hours of a long-stay patient’s return, a nurse practitioner would evaluate the hospital discharge summary, reconcile medications, conduct follow-up care and tests, make advance care plans and provide relevant health education to the family and nursing staff.

Of the potential care issues that arose, just 6 percent were found to have occurred after the transfer from the hospital. The sources of the remaining issues stemmed from the discharging hospital, the nursing home or the physicians in the nursing home at the rates of 29, 33 and 32 percent, respectively. To address these issues, the nurse practitioners worked with both the hospital discharge staff and the health professionals at the nursing facilities to facilitate access to essential and complicated information.

People who have been harmed while being discharged from a hospital often suffer a worsened medical condition, necessitating further hospitalization. People who have been affected in this manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss their options.