Healthcare News & Insights

Verdict: Fall prevention efforts aren’t working

Hospitals’ efforts to keep at-risk patients from falling may be for naught: New research indicates that most falls aren’t preventable. Overall, one-third of seniors fall — in hospitals, that rate ranges from 3% to 20%. Since falls are the leading cause of injury to senior citizens, hospitals have spent enormous amounts of time and energy on plans to keep their patients safe, including testing their vision, providing walking aids and instituting patient education campaigns.

A new report from the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) says those efforts don’t — and possibly can’t — do much to prevent falls.

Many of the factors that contribute to a fall aren’t preventable — or at least aren’t anything the admitting hospital can address: conditions such as Parkinson’s and delirium, dizziness and vertigo, osteoporosis and stroke.

The study’s authors say that if the falls aren’t preventable by the hospital, then hospitals shouldn’t be held responsible for them as they currently are. (Hospitals are required to have fall prevention plans in place, and CMS classifies preventable falls as non-reimbursable.)

Obviously, hospitals need to make common sense efforts to reduce fall risk such as warning patients and keeping patient areas clean, accessible and safe. But is requiring more than that asking too much? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Mary J Mang says:

    This is no epiphany to those of us directing quality improvement and reporting falls as sentinel events. In addition to the true statements posted, falls are considered “never events” by CMS meaning they should not occur in hospitals at all! To add to our dilemma, accrediting bodies and CMS require hospitals to reduce the use of restraints. There is no more “trial release” testing allowed as well to see if patients no longer need restraints. I’m hoping articles such as these gain momentum to influence future CMS requirements that are beyond reasonable control.