Include patients in programs to reduce falls
Find what is equally good for staff and patients
Hospitals are under the gun to prevent falls among patients. After all, hospitals do not receive Medicare reimbursement for medical costs associated with patient falls, and fall rates are publicly reported quality measures.
By taking a broader approach to fall prevention, hospitals can not only protect patients but can save medical costs, workers' compensation claims and absenteeism from worker falls.
"My ultimate goal is to link it all together to find out what is equally good for staff and patients in reducing falls," says Laurie D. Wolf, MS, CPE, Performance Improvement Engineer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, who is researching the issue as part of doctoral studies.
For example, stand aids and other assistive devices can help support patients who are partially weight-bearing — and reduce the risks of patient handling injuries, she says. Keeping the room free of clutter reduces trip hazards for patients, workers and visitors.
One awareness campaign at the hospital focuses on preventing patients from walking alone — so if they become woozy or weak, someone can help them to a chair or bed. Often, patients don't realize their limitations, says Wolf.
She is studying the different perspectives and perceptions of fall risk. For example, one patient assessed his own risk of falling at 2 out of 10. But the patient had already fallen twice, and the caregiver assessed his risk at 10 out of 10.
Wolf's goal is to find a way to bridge that gap in perceptions and reduce the risk of falls.
Hospital design also plays a key role. Better lighting and slip-resistant flooring helps anyone in the hospital keep their footing, notes Whitney Austin Gray, PhD, LEED AP, Health Research and Innovation Director at Cannon Design in Washington, DC.
Sometimes the furnishings in a room can be rearranged to create a family zone, while leaving more space for caregivers to attend to patient needs, she notes. That is particularly important if equipment, such as monitoring devices or computer work stations, will be wheeled into the room, she says.