Healthcare Based on the Clock

nurse and patient

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to doctors or hospitals until you need one. When you get sick or have an emergency, you expect medical practitioners to be accessible and helpful, to accurately diagnose your condition, alleviate your pain, administer proper treatment, resolve the uncertainties. Anyone who has to spend time in a hospital looks forward to going home, but being released too quickly can mean important details get overlooked and result in a host of problems.

Medical professionals are busy people, and hospitals are hectic places, but every patient deserves quality healthcare. Far too often, they are being rushed through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, and sent back home with a confusing stack of prescriptions and discharge instructions. Patients cost money, so revenue-driven physicians and hospitals often push for a high turnover rate. Hospitals and surgeons have to work together to keep things moving while striking a balance between having beds available to bring in income and sending patients home when they are medically ready to go.

A recent article in the New York Times outlined a particularly troubling case where a man having seizures was admitted to a hospital. Before the results of his brain biopsy were returned, he was bounced by the administrators out of the acute-care bed he had been occupying and sent home on the subway without a diagnosis (never to be heard from again). The doctor who authored the article remarked that hospitals “are not places for the sick to get well, not unless healing takes place in the brief interval of time that makes the stay a compensated expense.”

Two studies from 2012 examined more than 7,800 surgery patients who collectively spent 35,500 nights at a large medical center, using it as a model for the pressures faced by many hospitals. Tracking patient movement, the researchers found that patients discharged when the hospital was busiest were 50 percent more likely to return for treatment within three days. They concluded that this data was indicative of the fact that recovery was incomplete when the patients were first released, that discharge decisions were made with bed-capacity constraints in mind, and that financial obligations were compelling the release of patients too early.

Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals can be fined if a Medicare patient has to be treated again for the same condition within one month of being released. In 2014, almost 20 percent of Medicare patients who were hospitalized and then discharged had to be readmitted. The return visits cost Medicare about $26 billion. For that year, 2,610 hospitals were fined a total of about $428 million. In New Jersey, every hospital but one lost money, as did a majority of hospitals in 28 other states, including Florida. Here, 79 percent of all hospitals (148 hospitals) were penalized and paid an average penalty of 0.58 percent.

Whether the discharge is to home, a rehab facility, or a nursing home, if you don't agree that you or your loved one is ready, you have the right to appeal the decision. Talk with the physician and the case manager, expressing your reservations. If that isn't enough, contact Medicare, Medicaid, or your insurance company. You may have to make a formal appeal through KEPRO, a designated Quality Improvement Organization.

If you have been injured as a result of rushed medical treatment, or if such negligence has proven injurious or fatal to someone you love, take a moment to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Lawhas helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. We encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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