Fall Prevention Strategies in Hospitals
Falls among hospitalized patients remain a serious patient safety issue. According to the most recent data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans (CDC, 2021). Hospitalized patients are at an even greater risk of falling due to factors such as illness, surgery recovery, medication side effects, and an unfamiliar environment. However, hospitals have implemented various evidence-based strategies in recent years aimed at reducing fall rates and preventing patient injuries from falls.
Risk Assessment
A key initial step in any fall prevention program is to conduct a thorough risk assessment of individual patients. Standardized fall risk assessment tools are used to evaluate factors like age, previous fall history, mobility issues, mental status, and medications (Oliver et al., 2010). Patients identified as high risk receive targeted interventions. Automatic alerts in electronic health records also help caregivers easily identify at-risk patients.
Bed Alarms
Bed or chair exit alarms are commonly used safety devices that sound an audible alert when a patient near or at risk of falling attempts to exit the bed or chair unattended (Cameron et al., 2018). These alarms allow staff to quickly respond and assist patients, reducing the risk of an actual fall occurring. Many hospitals now use sensor technology that detects even slight movements that could indicate risk of a fall.
Safety Rounds
Frequent safety rounds where nurses or nursing assistants check on high-risk patients every 1-2 hours are another important preventive measure (Healey et al., 2016). During rounds, staff address potential fall risks like ensuring call lights are within reach, removing obstacles, keeping beds in their lowest position, and assessing toileting or other needs. Increased surveillance and response times help interrupt fall sequences before they occur.
Post-Fall Huddles
When falls do unfortunately happen, hospitals now widely implement post-fall huddles or debriefings involving frontline staff, pharmacists, physical therapists and others (The Joint Commission, 2020). The goal is to conduct a thorough review to determine causative factors and identify any systems issues or care process gaps that could be improved. Lessons learned help further refine fall prevention protocols.
In conclusion, multi-factorial fall prevention programs utilizing risk assessments, safety technology, increased surveillance and post-fall reviews have shown promise in reducing in-hospital fall rates and injuries. A continued focus on evidence-based strategies tailored to individual patient needs remains important for optimizing patient safety.
References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021, February 9). Important facts about falls. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
Cameron, I. D., et al. (2018). Interventions for preventing falls in older people in care facilities and hospitals. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD005465.pub4
Healey, F., et al. (2016). Enhanced staff supervision to prevent falls in older hospital inpatients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 64(12), e175–e180. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14471
The Joint Commission. (2020). Preventing falls and fall-related injuries in health care facilities. Sentinel Event Alert, 65, 1–6. https://www.jointcommission.org/resources/patient-safety-topics/sentinel-event/sentinel-event-alert-newsletters/sentinel-event-alert-65-preventing-falls-and-fall-related-injuries-in-health-care-facilities/
Oliver, D., et al. (2010). Strategies to prevent falls and fractures in hospitals and care homes and effect of cognitive impairment: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ, 340, c2132. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2132

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