CMS updates surveyor guidance for advanced directives, dementia care and other topics

A legal expert is urging providers to document everything related to their responses to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a move that could help skilled nursing and senior living organizations defend themselves if they are sued.

“Documentation is critical. Document, document, document your efforts,” Christy Tosh Crider, chair of Baker Donelson’s Health Care Litigation Group and the Women’s Initiative, said this week. She issued the warning during a webinar hosted by the Society for Healthcare Organization Purchasing Professionals.

Many operators may be subject to lawsuits in the coming months due to unfortunate resident outcomes from the new coronavirus, she warned, adding that procurement officers may become “critical witnesses” in such litigation. In fact, the first known lawsuit against the site of the first known U.S. outbreak, in Kirkland, WA, was filed last week. 

Crider said the focus of future lawsuits likely will involve staff members who have tested positive for the disease returning to work, struggles to get personal protective equipment, and staff training on how to effectively use PPE.

“What’s unfortunate is that you’re going to be judged against a standard six months from now that is not the standard today and wasn’t the standard yesterday or last week,” she said. 

“You need to be documenting as each new piece of guidance comes out. As you and your organization respond to that new piece of guidance, document what you knew, when you knew it and what your response was,” she urged.