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Should Hospitals Disclose Abuse Records on Nursing Homes to Patients?

Close to 40 percent of nursing homes have received citations over the course of the past year for a variety of violations of safety regulations and of patient's rights. Washington Post reported on this troubling statistic, which shows how vulnerable senior citizens and the disabled population are. 

In many cases, seniors go to nursing homes after being discharged from a hospital. Seniors may need to go to these homes either temporarily, with the goal of rehabilitation, or permanently because the illness or injury that took them to the hospital has made it impossible for them to live by themselves.

When a senior is discharged from the hospital to a nursing home, it is common practice for the hospital to provide a list of possible nursing care facilities. Sometimes, the hospital is affiliated with a particular facility, but not always.

Patients and their families frequently trust the advice of the hospital in order to help them determine what nursing home to select. The problem is, this is not always a good idea. Hospitals don't currently have to disclose much about a nursing home they are recommending and many do not provide info, claiming they are hindered by a government's rule prohibiting hospitals from limiting a patient's options in choosing a care provider. Patients and their families often do not realize that hospitals are not giving them all the info, and they trust the hospital's recommendation when they shouldn't.

Washington Post's story showcased the problems that come from patients and their families misunderstanding what role a hospital plays in making nursing home recommendations. In one tragic case reported on by the Post, a woman was discharged after hip surgery and her daughter chose a nursing home based on a suggested list from the hospital. The hospital hadn't told the patient or the daughter that the home had received multiple citations, or that it had a one star rating on Medicare's rating system.

Unknowingly, the patient went to this nursing home with a history of abuse and neglect after being discharged... and this decision ultimately resulted in her tragic death.  Situations like this could be prevented if hospitals actually had to provide a useful service in giving nursing home information, rather than just recommendations when a patient is being discharged.

The federal government has been working on a rule requiring hospitals to offer information on home health aids, rehab centers, nursing homes, and other facilities that patients are commonly discharged to. The problem is, the rule was proposed by Medicare more than a year ago, it does not explain exactly what has to be disclosed, it has not been finalized yet, and it is on a list of regulations that Republicans may block in part of ongoing efforts to roll back regulatory reforms following the election of President Donald J. Trump.  If the rule is rejected, the status quo will likely continue and patients will still be given information without context from hospitals on the important decision of where to seek care.

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