What can Hospitals do to Reduce the Rate of Bed Sores in Their Facilities?

By Nursing Home Law Center

StethoscopeThe first steps hospitals and other medical facilities can take to reduce the rate of bed sores among patients in their care is to acknowledge that pressure sores are an acquired injury and real risk for most care facilities. Bed sores, or pressure ulcers, are entirely preventable with appropriate preventive care and individualized care plans for each patient's unique medical needs. Some patients face a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers than others.

Health care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes should develop informed prevention plans based on available data. This means establishing a clear process for preventing bed sores and another process for effectively treating them.

Preventing Bed Sores

Hospital and nursing home staff should conduct thorough examinations of all new patients and note any patients that arrive for care who already have pressure sores of any degree. These wounds can worsen very quickly and it is vital to positively identify these issues as soon as possible. During the intake period it is also necessary to note any preexisting medical issues that increase a patient's risk of developing pressure ulcers, such as blood pressure irregularities, diabetes, and malnutrition.

Nursing homes and hospitals provide better care to patients when they take individual patient medical issues into account when developing treatment plans. When it comes to preventing bed sores, focus should be on a patient's known risk factors and attending caregivers should reposition patients and take other necessary measures to keep patients from developing bed sores.

Documentation and Routine Checks

When a hospital patient or nursing home resident develops a pressure ulcer, attending staff should track the progression of the ulcer at least once per week. They should note the location, size, color, and severity of the wound and take note of the patient's pain level and other symptoms. These records are crucial for patient care; attending physicians must have some reference of a pressure ulcer's progression to effectively treat it and address any risk for secondary complications like infection.

Some hospitals and nursing homes have implemented facility-wide skin checks for their patients on regular schedules. These checks help staff members identify and address pressure sores earlier, reducing the risk of progression and other related complications like infection and tissue necrosis.

Nursing homes and hospitals should also make it clear to caregivers to report any suspicious symptoms or warning signs of pressure ulcers as they develop. Staff should also pay extra attention to patients who require extensive bed rest and those who have medical devices attached to their bodies. The pressure exerted by the securement fixtures on these devices, like straps and facial masks, can cause pressure ulcers to develop on the body.

Additional Prevention Methods

Patients are generally more likely to develop bed sores while in acute medical treatment facilities like hospitals as opposed to facilities like nursing homes. However, there is still a significant risk of developing pressure ulcers in nursing homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 11% of all nursing home patients sustain pressure ulcers each year in the U.S., but this risk can be as high as one in five for some facilities.

Medical care facilities can reduce the appearance of bed sores by discouraging adult diaper use that may lead to infections and additional pressure in sensitive areas of the body. Nutritional support and dietary counseling can benefit patients suffering from malnutrition and nutrient deficiency, two more medical factors that may increase the risk of developing pressure ulcers.

Ultimately, pressure ulcers are injuries that should never happen in any medical facility that upholds appropriate preventive care practices and encourages staff to pay close attention to at-risk patients. When pressure ulcers manifest they can cause intense pain and a host of other symptoms that dramatically impact the quality of life.

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