CT Pilots Patient Safety Program for Nursing Homes

New protocol will improve teamwork, decision-making, and safety in nursing homes in CT

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"We tweak the training as we need to. It's a strategy that can be adapted," she said.

Besides reducing risks, the training program can save money by reducing staff turnover and clarifying responsibilities, Spenard and Qualidigm President Timothy Elwell said. Those issues are important in long-term care settings.

"The main thrust of this is to improve patient safety, but there are some clear derivative benefits, in terms of costs," Elwell said.

TeamSTEPPS is the latest of many attempts to try to reduce medical errors in high-risk settings. The defense department's patient safety program came up with the training in 2006, in response to a landmark report by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 that found that almost 100,000 deaths a year were caused by preventable medical errors. Qualidigm and Abt Associates, Inc., worked with AHRQ for two years on the long-term care version.

In Connecticut, nursing homes are most often cited for lapses in care that lead to patient injury, such as pressure ulcers, lack of fall-prevention strategies and mistakes in medication or treatment. At least five citations in the past year have involved residents choking to death on food, in some cases because of negligent supervision by staff.

Spenard said Qualidigm is hoping to identify a Connecticut nursing home willing to pilot the new program in the fall. The program also is available nationwide to any long-term care facilities that want to be trained. (For program details click here.)

"It's worked in hospitals – it could be used in assisted living and other continuing care communities," Spenard said.

"We're going to start to beat the drum and get the word out."

Lisa Chedekel is an award-winning investigative reporter and the co-founder of The Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible, in-depth journalism on issues of health and safety. This article originally appeared at C-HIT.org and was republished by U.S. News & World Report with permission.