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New Study Shows Higher Quality of Care at Accredited Nursing Homes

A new study about the safety culture in nursing homes suggests that accredited nursing homes provide a more favorable care environment for seniors. Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers are encouraged by the prospect of improved care at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Illinois and around the nation.

The study, published by the Joint Commission, surveyed around 4,000 nursing homes to gather data about safety culture practices at the facilities. Safety culture is a term used in the medical field to describe the attitude and understanding of patient care methods amongst employees. The Joint Commission is an independent, non-profit corporation that offers accreditation procedures to improve health care practices in medical facilities.

Past studies linking accreditation to improved hospital safety culture inspired the nursing home study. This recent study considered factors such as: employee understanding of care procedures, staff attentiveness to patients’ needs, the adequacy of staff in relation to the demand for care, and staff opinions about the quality of care being provided. These are just a few of nearly 40 sub-topics the survey covered. Nursing home senior managers rated the factors on a sliding scale that assessed the employee and management attitudes towards the particular care standards in their facilities.

Accredited homes received more positive ratings in all but three of the categories. Researchers believe the data is extremely encouraging with regard to patient safety. They suggest that positive ratings by management indicate a healthy and thriving patient safety culture, which can translate to more competent patient care. Although the accreditation process can be time-consuming, it is proven to produce beneficial outcomes.

During the accreditation process, a team of specialists from the Joint Commission typically goes to the facility and observes interactions between patients, staff, nurses, and supervisors. The team then makes reconstruction suggestions to improve the workflow and boost the patient safety culture. Changes place stress on improving the workplace morale so that employees feel comfortable discussing challenges or errors they encounter during the workday. The study suggests that open communication lines lead to a reduction in dangerous incidents overall.

Paying attention to the quality of care is going to become increasingly important as local and national government entities fight to squeeze budgets and reduce deficits. In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn recently proposed a $2.7 billion cut to Medicaid services. All of the homes in the Joint Commission study went above and beyond Medicaid care standards, incurring the extra cost to get independently accredited. The cut could drastically reduce the number of nursing home employees. It could even prevent elders from receiving the funding needed to get treatment at nursing home facilities.

The study suggests that, even on the current budget, it is difficult for homes to spare the cash to get accredited. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that of the $2.7 billion cut backs, $675 million may be saved by reducing reimbursement payments to nursing homes and hospitals for the care they provide. Quinn insists that without cutbacks, the State Medicaid debt could spiral out of control to almost $21 billion dollars within the next five years.

Health Care Council of Illinois, an advocacy group for nursing home residents, is currently touring local nursing homes to rally residents and provide information about the budgetary developments. Some politicians oppose the plan due to the dangers associated with reduced care accessibility, while others simply believe the budget plan is a threat that will never go through.

Whatever the outcome, our skilled nursing home lawyers are concerned about the level of care that is currently provided and how it will change in the future. We have seen far too many preventable mistakes happen in both accredited and non-accredited nursing facilities. It is important to contact an experienced elder law attorney if you or a loved one is injured by nursing home abuse or neglect.