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Charges of cherry picking admissions to skilled nursing facilities can result in extremely bad publicity in your community, warns Sandy Mahon, vice president for risk management and quality assessment with Program Beta, the risk pool for hospital districts in California, based in Alamo. Despite all the potential financial fallout from such charges, Mahon says, the negative publicity could be the worst punishment of all.
"This is a real uninsurable loss — your reputation in the community," she says. "If the community becomes aware that you’re cherry picking and turning away people’s loved ones, you can suffer a significant loss of reputation. When you have a hospital that has developed a lousy reputation, that can result in a significant loss of market share. I would be very concerned about that."
The issue can be volatile because it directly ties into people’s desire to have their loved ones nearby in the community, she says. Especially if the patient already is being treated in your hospital and needs to transfer to a skilled nursing facility, family members will be shocked and surprised to hear that your facility will not accept the admission.
"You have to be very careful how you convey this message to the family that you cannot take their loved one into your facility," Mahon says. "You should have a communication style that is empathetic, understanding of the patient’s and family’s needs, but convey that your facility is unable to aid in this situation.
"You want to demonstrate empathy without caving in. You don’t want to appear to be callous and uncaring, but, at the same time, if the organization could fold as a result of taking on patients you can’t afford to handle, you’ve gained nothing."