PU: Litigation

from flickr, ScottS101

from flickr, ScottS101

From a meeting of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, Arlington, Va.:

“Pressure ulcer litigation is now the low-hanging fruit,” commented an audience member from New Jersey during a Q & A session.

He cited an example within the past two years of a $400,000 payoff to a family when a malpractice claim was filed against a nursing home after a resident’s death was deemed related to a pressure ulcer.

“It’s a slam dunk,” he said, adding that attorneys use pictures of the wounds and subpoenas of nurses’ records to win these lawsuits.

The moral of the story is not new: Documentation is important, especially when patients refuse a procedure or treatment. In theory, if a patient says he or she doesn’t want treatment and the health practitioner documents it, that is a good start towards avoiding litigation.  But that’s usually not enough, as lawyers can argue that the patient didn’t understand or wasn’t competent.

So in addition to documenting patient care, health care providers should document patient education and comprehension if they don’t want to get sued. I wonder how well most hospitals go beyond simple documentation to include notes on patient education and comprehension. They may need a bigger chart.

Find out more than you ever wanted to know about pressure ulcers at npuap.org.

–Heidi Splete

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Filed under Hospice and Palliative Care, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine

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