A nurse helping a nursing home resident walk
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New data reveals an increase in adverse events among nursing home residents during the pandemic, an indicator that post-acute care providers and others must take a closer look at patient safety, federal officials say.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “are committed to a renewed focus on patient safety,” officials from both agencies wrote recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The officials pointed to several patient-safety metrics that have declined since the start of the pandemic, including metrics among nursing home patients that “don’t bode well” for the future.

Facility data reported to CMS during the second quarter of 2020 found skilled nursing facilities saw their rates of falls causing major injury increase by 17.5% and pressure ulcer rates increase by 41.8%. 

“The surges of the delta and omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 in late 2021 and early 2022 do not bode well for a return to pre-pandemic levels for any of these indicators,” the authors reported. “We are already working together to expand the collection and use of data on safety indicators in our programs, including data in such key areas as maternal health and mental health, and we will work with other government and nongovernmental organizations to further enhance patient safety.” 

The authors included CMS’ Chief Medical Officer Lee A. Fleisher, M.D.; Deputy Director for Quality and Value Michelle Schreiber, M.D.; and Denise Cardo, M.D., and Arjun Srinivasan, M.D, both of the CDC.

Though there are multiple explanations that may explain the increases, the officials said it’s the increased strain on the entire healthcare system that’s caused the disruption. 

As providers prepare to enter COVID’s endemic stage, the authors stressed the need for  “breakthrough thinking about systems built on foundational principles of safety, akin to those used in other industries in which safety is embedded in every step of a process, with clear metrics that are aggregated, assessed and acted on.” 

“The healthcare sector owes it to both patients and its own workforce to respond now to the pandemic-induced falloff in safety by redesigning our current processes and developing new approaches that will permit the delivery of safe and equitable care across the healthcare continuum during both normal and extraordinary times,” the authors concluded.