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At the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville's largest hospital, a nurse error accidentally killed a patient and jeopardized Medicare payments.
Nashville Tennessean

UPDATE: Federal officials announced Thursday that they had accepted Vanderbilt's corrective plan. The reimbursement status of the hospital by Medicare was therefore no longer threatened. The hospital is now working with federal officials to adopt the plan.)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center risks losing Medicare reimbursement as federal officials have discovered that one patient died last year after being inadvertently injected with a powerful anesthetic.

You can read the details here, but if you do not have time to tell the whole story, here are three things you need to know about Nashville's largest hospital.

How is the patient dead?

The reimbursement status of VUMC's health insurance is compromised because a patient died last December after a nurse accidentally gave him the wrong medication. The patient was nervous about receiving a full body scan in the radiology department. A doctor has therefore prescribed a routine anti-anxiety medication called Versed. A nurse then went to get the Versed in an electronic medical record. You can search for it by typing the name of the medicine into a computer.

When the nurse did not find Versed, she activated a surrogate feature in the practice computer that unlocked more powerful drugs, then searched for "VE" to search for Versed and chose the first option provided by the machine. . This led the nurse to inject the patient with vecuronium, a powerful paralyzing anesthetic that caused cardiac arrest and partial brain death.

What is the importance of Medicare?

Medicare is a government program that cares for elderly patients and is often a significant part of the income of most hospitals.

According to Vanderbilt's latest financial reports, approximately 22% of the hospital's net income comes from Medicare patients. If the hospital were to lose its Medicare reimbursement status, the financial impact could be devastating.

What is happening now?

These are the key dates to keep in mind as VUMC is trying to maintain Medicare status.

21 November: Vanderbilt has submitted a corrective action plan in a bid to show the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services how the hospital will prevent such an error from happening again.

November 30th: Vanderbilt must submit a revised plan to Centers For Medicare and Medicaid services. At this point, CMS will decide what to do.

December 9th: If federal officials are not satisfied with the corrections made by the hospital, Vanderbilt could lose Medicare's refund status by that date. At this point, the Medicare program will not pay for hospital services provided to patients admitted on or after December 9th.

For patients who were admitted before December 9th, they can continue to pay for hospital treatment for another 30 days.

FULL HISTORY: In Vanderbilt, a nurse made a mistake and put Medicare at risk

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Brett Kelman is the health reporter for The Tennessean newspaper. You can reach him at 615-259-8287 or brett.kelman@tennessean.com. Follow him on Twitter @brettkelman

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