Healthcare News & Insights

A different approach to fall prevention in hospitals

Patient falls are still all too common in hospitals. A quick slip can cause severe injuries – or even death. To keep a fall from negatively affecting a patient’s recovery, facilities need to make sure their fall prevention efforts go beyond the minimum requirements. 

120103800According to various statistics, up to 20% of patients in hospitals will fall at some point during their stay. And for elderly people 65 and over, falls are one of the top 10 leading causes of death.

While many hospitals have some type of standard fall-prevention policies in place, including the use of nonskid socks or bed alarms, a multifaceted approach can be more effective. An article from Medscape describes the in-depth efforts of one facility’s cardiac intermediate care unit to lower its fall rates.

Strategy that worked

The unnamed hospital began by putting together a fall-prevention committee, composed of a group of nurses. After reviewing the circumstances behind recent patient falls in the unit and researching best practices for prevention, the committee came up with a new, comprehensive fall-reduction program.

From its research, the group found that the majority of falls took place when patients were going to the bathroom. So nurses came up with ways they could be close at hand to keep patients from falling while still maintaining their privacy, including leaving the bathroom door slightly ajar and staying behind a curtain as patients used the commode.

Other strategies the hospital used for fall reduction included:

  • “huddles” with staff members after every patient fall to discuss the causes and come up with solutions
  • emails sent by nurses after their patients fell that included details about how the fall occurred, including contributing factors, the patient’s perspective on the fall and the nurse’s view on what could be done to prevent another fall
  • equipping nurses and nursing assistants with locator badges that tracked how quickly they responded to patient call lights
  • creating and enforcing a policy that all call lights must be answered within a minute, and
  • weekly informal meetings where staff got together to talk about any issues related to falls.

By adding these extra steps to the fall-prevention process, the hospital was successful in lowering its fall rates. In just one year, the program caused a 55% drop in falls overall. In addition, injuries attributed to falls were reduced by 72%.

Most effective changes

The changes that made the biggest impact on fall rates were the prompt response to patient call bells and the locator badges, which made it easier for the hospital to reward staff with the best response times.

And because nursing staff got more practice with communicating about falls with each other, they were better able to relay information about a patient’s fall risk to both patients and their families.

Hospitals that are looking to improve their fall rates can take similar steps for fall prevention. While fall-reduction efforts should be customized based on each facility’s patient mix, it’s important to use standardized fall-risk screening tools to create a specific fall-risk prevention plan for individual patients.

It’s also key for the care team to communicate effectively about fall reduction, both among themselves and with patients’ and their loved ones.

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