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Study: Home health care suffers when doctors fail to communicate

Home health care professionals know it. And with the recent publication of a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, physicians, patients, patients' families and others might understand it as well: miscommunication by doctors can lead to negative health outcomes for seniors that result in hospital readmissions.

Miscommunications between doctors and home health care nurses and others can result in medical errors that often involve mistakes with medications, researchers found.

The study by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus involves six focus groups made up of nurses from six different home health agencies in that state. The nurses were asked to talk about their patient care experiences.

Miscommunications (and inability to get in contact with a primary care physician) too often means that there are discrepancies in medication lists, confusion over who is responsible for patient care orders, inaccessible patient records and other problems, researchers found.

One nurse said she's been told not to contact hospitals and said she has gotten in trouble for doing so, even though she was simply trying to get patient information.

Others complained about the difficulty of obtaining proper documentation and doctors' signatures for Medicare claims and for audits.

“As hospitalists, we need to think about what happens beyond the hospital walls and how we can support our patients after discharge," said the study's lead researcher. "Especially when it comes to home health care patients who can be very vulnerable."

Home health agencies and nurses with related licensing issues and enforcement actions can speak with an attorney experienced in these matters by contacting the Austin law offices of Rivas Goldstein LLP.

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