Needing Better Technology for Unintentional Injuries
By David Condra
Amplion Clinical Communications
Hospitals nationwide are making efforts to reduce the rates of patient falls, and we as an industry have an opportunity to support their efforts. We must invest in better technology to help patients, nurses and other caregivers who are on the “front lines” of where falls take place.
Falls Carry a Cost, Financial and Emotional
CMS has identified falls with injury on its list of “Never Events,” for which hospitals are penalized through decreased reimbursement. But the most compelling reasons to focus on falls are more personal. Falls are the third most common cause of unintentional injury death across all age groups. Worse, they’re the leading cause among people 65 years and older, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Injury Center. Patient falls add unnecessary stress and anxiety to the inpatient experience, for patients, their caregivers, and loved ones.
Smaller Hospitals Feel the Cost Intensely
Suppose we want to calculate the hard cost of falls with injury for a small, 50-bed hospital. Let’s assume this hospital has a fall rate in line with the national average. Let’s also assume the hospital has a low occupancy rate, around 30 percent. The hospital would experience about 26 falls per year, with about 8 of those falls resulting in injury. In one year, the total cost of falls with injury would be $31,200 and that doesn’t include the costs of defending potential lawsuits or paying associated settlements or damages.
To Identify Solutions, Understand the Risk Environment
We must first understand where patient falls occur. According to researcher M.J. Krauss:
- Nearly 80 percent of patient falls occur in patient rooms
- 11 percent occur in patients’ bathrooms
- 9 percent take place in hallways, in exam or treatment rooms or by the nurses’ station
It is clear that we must support health care workers, who dominate these “front line” areas, with better technology. In other words, to focus on the patient, we must support the nurse.
Building on Current Fall Prevention Tools
Over the years, hospitals have incorporated many methods and techniques aimed at reducing fall rates. Some fall risk assessment tools include The Morse Fall Scale; the STRATIFY tool; the Hendrick II Fall Risk Model, and the Schmid Fall Risk Assessment Tool. Hospitals have also used additional methods. The Emergency Care Research Institute has a list of common prevention methods, including:
- White boards at the nurses’ station to identify patients with high fall risk
- Implementing a patient sitter program
- Routine checks and rounding in patients’ rooms
- Education campaigns in hospitals
In light of the statistics, we can see the methods currently being used to prevent falls are not sufficient. If hospitals hope to reduce patient falls, quick, direct information regarding patients is key.
While fall risk awareness and fall prevention training can certainly help, the reality is that nurses cannot do much to help prevent a fall if they don’t know immediately that a patient is beginning to move in a high-risk manner. We should leverage technological advances to empower patients and nurses, connecting them in real-time dialogue on the hospital floor. A patient-centered approach to care delivery will result in great improvements in the care environment.
This article was written by David Condra of Amplion Clinical Communications.