The February 19, 2011 article written by reporters from California Watch repeats SEIU's allegation that Prime Healthcare hospitals use a diagnosis of malnutrition to increase reimbursement. This allegation is baseless and nothing more than another example of SEIU distorting the facts in order to mislead the public and extort concessions from Prime Healthcare.
First, Prime Healthcare hospitals do not use a diagnosis of malnutrition to increase reimbursement. Indeed, the relevant (i.e., where the diagnosis affected reimbursement) malnutrition rate at all Prime Healthcare hospitals was 3.6%, which is much less than the rates referenced in the article. For example, the relevant malnutrition rate at Huntington Beach Hospital was 5.3% rather than the 39% reported by California Watch.
In addition, the higher than average malnutrition rates at Prime Healthcare hospitals are the result of Prime Healthcare's commitment to providing high quality healthcare for all of its patients for which Prime Healthcare should be applauded rather than criticized. Published studies estimate that up to 15% of ambulatory elderly patients, up to 44% of homebound elderly patients, up to 65% of hospitalized elderly patients, and up to 85% of nursing home patients are malnourished. Hajjar, R.R., Kamel, H.K., Denson, K., Malnutrition In Aging, The Internet Journal of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Volume 1, Number 1 (2004); Chen, C.C-H, Schilling, L.S., Lyder, C.H., A Concept Analysis of Malnutrition In The Elderly, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Volume 36(1) (2001). Given these statistics and the morbidity and mortality rates associated with undetected and untreated malnutrition, Prime Healthcare hospitals have implemented a nutritional screening program in order to improve patient care outcomes and decrease mortality and morbidity. This program includes policies and procedures designed to ensure that each elderly patient admitted to the hospital receives a nutritional screening. Physicians also routinely order serum albumin tests and promptly assess patients based on the serum albumin levels and other malnutrition indicators. While this initiative has undoubtedly improved patient care outcomes and decreased mortality and morbidity, it has also resulted in more Medicare patients being properly diagnosed with malnutrition and the average malnutrition rates being higher at Prime Healthcare hospitals than other hospitals. However, the increase in malnutrition diagnoses has not lead to a similar increase in reimbursement as a substantial majority of the malnutrition diagnoses did not lead to enhanced reimbursement. Rather, these quality measures and Prime Healthcare's commitment to providing the highest quality of patient care lead to Prime Healthcare being ranked as one of the Top 10 Health Systems in the Nation by Thomson Reuters, the only for profit hospital system to be so recognized.
Like SEIU's earlier allegations concerning septicemia rates, which were repeated by California Watch in an October 2010 article, the most recent allegations concerning malnutrition rates are part of SEIU's concerted corporate campaign of extortion against Prime Healthcare. Prime Healthcare has and will continue to stand up to SEIU's extortion tactics so as to protect the interests of its 9,000 employees and the hundreds of thousands of patients it serves.
Prime Healthcare Services