Experts Issue White Paper on the Legal Issues Associated with Care of Pressure Ulcer Patients

The International Expert Wound Care Advisory Panel today released a 23-page white paper, "Legal Issues in the Care of Pressure Ulcer Patients: Key Concepts for Healthcare Providers," detailing and identifying key concepts to help healthcare professionals with preventive legal care practices taking into consideration the current pressure ulcer regulatory and legal environment.  These key concepts are based on a recent roundtable discussion of eight thought leaders on the various legal implications of these policies and ways in which healthcare workers can reduce their risks. The roundtable and paper were supported by an educational grant from Medline Industries, Inc.

Every year, pressure ulcers affect more than 1 million acute-care and nursing facility patients. Lawsuits over pressure ulcers are becoming increasingly common in both settings, with claims per occupied bed increasing at an annual rate of 14 percent and the average court settlement rising more than $250,000. In addition to the bottom line implications -- Medicare data estimates the average cost associated with pressure ulcer treatment is over $40,000 -- a pressure ulcer-related lawsuit can do severe damage to a facility's reputation for providing quality patient care, devastating staff morale and turning clients away.

"The interrelationship between medical decision-making, reimbursement and legal issues relating to pressure ulcers has never been greater and the medical-legal landscape itself has never been more treacherous," said the paper's corresponding author Caroline Fife, MD, CWS, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center. "This white paper is a valuable resource for clinicians, managers, administrators, risk managers and industry members to establish or reinforce not only the aspects of a good pressure ulcer prevention process, but also how that goal can be achieved without an increase in litigation."

Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, occur in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities as a result of multiple internal and external factors, including unrelieved pressure on the skin. When the treatment and prevention of pressure ulcers comes under legal scrutiny, it is often alleged as negligence. According to the authors, the readily apparent nature of pressure ulcers means that, unlike many other medical complications, they never go unnoticed by patients and their families.

Co-author Dr. Diane Krasner notes, "It is critical that everyone who is involved with pressure ulcer litigation - patients, families, caregivers, attorneys and healthcare team members - recognize that the vast majority of pressure ulcers are not due to negligence or non-compliance on anyone's part, but rather they are unavoidable due to a patient's risk factors, illnesses, co-morbidities and other complicating factors."

More than 25 wound care publications and professional organizations have been invited to publish or distribute the white paper, and members of the panel will also be presenting information from the paper at the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 16 during a session, "Wounds & Litigation: How to Safeguard Your Practice & Your Facility."

 For more information and to receive a copy of the white paper, visit Medline's Web site at