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Jeruba's avatar

"Never events"? "Elopement"? What does this mean in medical terms?

Asked by Jeruba (48711points) December 10th, 2010

I feel like I’ve just wandered into alien territory. I’m searching online for a different kind of support for my injured foot, and I stumbled onto this link:

Never Events

Actually I clicked it on purpose because I wondered what the hell “never” was doing being used as an adjective.

The first thing on that page is “Elopement.” The products listed don’t appear to have anything to do with running away secretly to get married. Is this a technical term in the world of health care?

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9 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t understand the question. The term is defined well in the first sentence of the link. Surely you read it; how can it not be clear?

I agree that “patient elopement” should have been defined, especially since the page has a (broken) link to it. But this isn’t the first time that I’ve seen “never events” used as a medical term. The first time I saw it I had to figure it out from context – and simply knowing the meanings of the words.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think they are more toward medical insurance reimbursement terms and hospital terms than actual medical terms (if that makes sense). Elopement is when a patient “sneaks” or wanders from where they are suppose to be. If a patient falls after wandering away from the staff that is watching them, the insurance companies (specifically Medicare) won’t reimburse the hospitals for costs incurred due to the patient’s fall.

I’ve never heard “never events” before, but it sounds like what the hospital I use to work at referred to as sentinel events (which were things that shouldn’t ever happen to our patients and things that were thoroughly investigated if they did happen). The products they show are all designed to help keep patients in the area they are suppose to be in and/or alert the staff that the patient is on the move.

CaptainHarley's avatar

In that sense, they are referring to patients leaving the medical environment without consent of medical professionals.

marinelife's avatar

“Patient elopement is especially prevalent amongst Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and is a Never Event – it should not happen. Accidents or injuries resulting from wandering will become non-reimbursable under the new CMS (Medicare) Never Events ruling in October 2008. AliMed’s range of wander alarms and other dementia products can reduce the risk of elopement.”

From the site. It appears that this is a simple case of jargon speak for both “never events” and “patient elopement”. Sort of like having to pay revenue enhancements.

Jeruba's avatar

The jargon in any field can be mystifying, jarring, and sometimes downright disturbing to the uninitiated. It can also do violence to the language, as witness the impact of high-tech terminology on everyday usage. In the medical field you may not always want to know how they think of you.

The first time a receptionist called to me across the waiting room and said “I can room you now,” I wanted to run away.

Yes, “never event” is defined, but “elopement” is startling. I wanted to know if this is standard terminology in the health care field and what all it takes in.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Since neither my wife nor I have heard of it being used in this sense before, it’s likely that it’s a relatively new usage which has a rather narrow scope, perhaps just in the nursing home sector.

lillycoyote's avatar

Elopment also means “leaving without permission. “Never events” appear to be things that should never happen in the first place if people in a nursing facility are adequately cared for to begin with. They include bed sores, falls and all forms of “wandering off” which is common among Altzheimer patients. Medicare already reimburses or pays for a basic level of care for these patients and they apparently have stopped reimbursing the facilities for things that generally only occur from substandard care.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@lillycoyote That goes for in the hospitals as well. If a patient is in for pneumonia (for example) and has a fall or develops a bed sore, the hospitals are not reimbursed for the care necessary for treating the fall or bed sore (from Medicare and some other insurance companies as well). Oh, and it’s for any patient, not just patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Seaofclouds Yes, I know it’s not just for patients with some form of dementia, that was just an example of the type of patient who is more likely to wander off, but I did think these things tended to be more common nursing facilities or long term care facilities rather than hospitals but I guess not.

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