California Faces Issue of Record Falsification at Some Nursing Homes
Some nursing homes in California have altered patients' health records and provided false information in medical charts,Â the Sacramento Bee reports.
Elder abuse attorneys who sue nursing homes for civil damages have said they encounter some form of suspect record-keeping in nearly every case they investigate.
From 1990 to 1999, California issued 180 citations for "willful material falsification" against long-term care facilities. That number dropped to 29 citations between 2000 and 2010.
Falsifying health records is a misdemeanor in California, but workers rarely are charged criminally for the offense.
Health record falsification is the least common citation the California Department of Public Health issues to nursing homes (Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee, 9/18).
Attorneys who sue nursing homes say patient record falsifications are common but infrequently pursued by authorities (Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee, 9/19).
Details of the Trend
According to an analysis of record falsification cases conducted by the Bee, some nursing home administrators have been driven to re-create medical records to hide negligence in care and to try to avoid costly lawsuits.
The most common types of health record falsification include:
- Covering up poor outcomes, such as when a patient dies or sustains an injury;
- Staff members filling out paperwork without knowing whether treatments took place or if the information recorded is accurate; and
- Inaccurate recordings ofÂ dispensed medications.
Nursing Homes' Response
Nursing home industry representatives contend that falsification of health records is not widespread and is not a matter of great concern.
Deborah Pacyna -- a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents more than 1,250 facilities -- said she has not heard of record falsification being an issue during her two years with the association.
Mark Reagan, an attorney for the association, said that the association does not condone fraudulent record-keeping but that "it's never been my experience that there's a pervasive problem with it" (Sacramento Bee, 9/18).
Industry representatives also have said fraud allegations are unjustified especially considering the amount of paperwork facilities have to produce to comply with Medicare and other regulatoryÂ requirements (Sacramento Bee, 9/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.