Patient falls are still a significant problem in facilities, and injuries sustained during a fall can jeopardize a patient’s recovery. With that in mind, The Joint Commission has released new guidelines designed to help hospitals get better at preventing falls.
According to The Joint Commission’s report, hundreds of thousands of patients fall each year in hospitals, and close to half of them are injured in some way.
Every fall resulting in an injury adds about $14,000 to the cost of treating each patient and over six days to each hospital stay.
In an era where both the cost of care and patient outcomes are on the feds’ radar, preventing falls should be top priority for hospitals.
Although many fall-prevention programs focus on the elderly, age isn’t the only determining factor. Confusion and weakness caused by illness, medications and even certain diagnostic tests can increase fall risk.
Because so many different patients are at risk for falling, prevention can be challenging. But The Joint Commission has outlined six key steps facilities should follow to reduce the risk of falls:
- Raise awareness of the need to prevent patient falls. Many falls are caused by communication breakdowns about the importance of following safety procedures to help patients avoid falling. Hospital staff at every level should be aware of the steps they need to take to prevent patient falls, from clearly marking wet floors to fully assessing patients for signs of delirium or exhaustion. It’s also important to provide staff with the resources they need for fall prevention, including regular training and technology like bed alarms (even if they aren’t the be-all and end-all for stopping falls).
- Create a multi-department fall injury prevention team. The most effective fall prevention team is made up of doctors, nurses, IT staff, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, quality specialists and executives. They provide multiple opinions and areas of expertise, and paint a clearer picture of where a facility needs to focus its efforts.
- Use a standardized tool to identify fall risk factors. The Joint Commission recommends several established assessment tools, including the Morse Fall Scale and the Hendrich II Fall Risk Model. Modules based on each tool can be integrated into a hospital’s electronic health records (EHR) system. Along with the tool, the commission suggests that providers perform individual risk assessments on each patient, taking into account the person’s gender, age, level of physical function and cognitive status.
- Develop an individualized care plan based on each patient’s fall and injury risks. The care plan should include action steps to prevent falls based on the patient’s physical condition and the setting where care is being administered. Strategies should be directly targeted to issues identified during the patient’s initial assessment.
- Integrate best practices into individual and general fall prevention plans. Along with targeted interventions, all fall prevention programs should contain a standardized process for patient handoffs. This decreases the likelihood that problems contributing to falls aren’t addressed during shift changes. Patients should also receive information from their clinicians about their individual fall risks, and what they can do themselves to prevent injuries.
- Use patient falls as training opportunities. Rather than punishing hospital staff, The Joint Commission suggests a more forgiving post-fall management program that includes elements such as “post-fall huddles” where your fall-prevention team and other affected staff members come together to analyze the situation. Healthcare executives should promote transparent reporting of falls so they can be tracked for prevention purposes. And patients who fall should be reassessed as soon as possible to track changes in their condition and keep any injuries from escalating into major problems.