Q: Is it normal to constantly fear potential wound care litigation?
A: Wounds or pressure ulcers are one of the key components of quality indicators. They also can quickly become one of the key components of lawsuits. Among older adults, wound and pressure-related injuries should never be seen as the norm. Often, these wounds and subsequent litigation are preventable.
There are some elements that healthcare leaders can equip themselves with to avoid such unpleasant situations and practice patient-centered standards of care.
1. Assessing risk of skin breakdown, implementing preventative skin care measures, creating a treatment goal if a wound/pressure ulcer develops, and ensuring ongoing communication with the interdisciplinary team and family members can save time, money and unnecessary stress.
2. It is helpful and effective to regularly review the facility’s policies, procedures, guidelines and standards of practice.
3. It is essential that provider (nurses and practitioners) assessments include risks of skin breakdown, the overall health of the skin and accurate assessment of the wound/wound treatment. The chances of the wound healing or worsening should be documented and communicated with the interdisciplinary team, as well as the family or anyone holding medical power of attorney.
4. Communication and documentation are the keys to excellence of care and avoidance of unintended outcomes of lawsuits. Efficient, compassionate, and clear communication with family members fosters trust in the healthcare team’s dedication to serving older adults with complex medical conditions.
Healthcare providers must continue to practice medicine based on clinical excellence rather than the fear of litigation.
Fatima Naqvi, MD, CMD, is medical director for AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.