OIG: Nearly 30% of rehab facility patients suffer care-related harm

Almost 30% of patients who receive care at inpatient rehabilitation hospitals experience some sort of harm relating to their care, according to a new government report.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General found that nearly 29% of Medicare beneficiaries admitted to inpatient rehab facilities experience an adverse event during their stay including healthcare-acquired infections, medication errors and pressure ulcers.

That rate places rehab hospitals — which require patients to have at least three hours of therapy per day, five days a week — just above the care-related harm rate for skilled nursing facilities. A 2014 OIG report found one in five skilled nursing patients suffered some type of adverse event during their stay.

OIG found 46% of adverse events in rehab hospitals to be “clearly or likely” preventable, compared to the 59% of events found to be preventable in the 2014 SNF report.

Nearly a quarter of patients involved in an adverse event were transferred back to an acute-care hospital, costing the Medicare program at least $7.7 million per month.

“The incidence of adverse events in rehab hospitals is similar to that in acute-care hospitals and SNFs, as reflected in previous OIG findings, confirming the need and opportunity to significantly reduce the incidence of adverse events across healthcare settings,” the OIG report reads.

The new watchdog report follows recommendations from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association that the majority of patients recovering from a stroke get follow-up treatment at inpatient rehabilitation facilities, not skilled nursing facilities.