News Corner: Joint Commission Toolkit Tackles Hospitals Falls, Saving Millions in Avoidable Costs

Previously overlooked as a serious detriment to hospital recovery, falls are finally getting the attention they deserve.

According to an article in Hospital & Health Networks Magazine, a fall can add 6.3 extra days and $14,000 to a hospital stay. To tackle this problem, the Joint Commission worked with hospitals over the past four years to create a toolkit of 21 solutions that address fall risk factors. This toolkit not only tackles a top safety concern for hospitals, but leads to better outcomes for patients.

Identifying Causes and Developing Solutions

To identify the causes of falls, the Joint Commission took a patient-centric approach, speaking with patients and their families to assess a patient’s risk for falling. At Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center, a member of the pilot program, they discovered that a large percentage of falls were due to patients not wanting to ask for help in accomplishing mundane tasks, such as going to the bathroom. Proposed solutions for this issue included bed alarms, nonskid footwear, and further education for patients about the risks associated with a fall.

Other Solutions

This problem is coming to the forefront of hospital concerns as they look to improve outcomes, shorten hospital stays, and reduce readmissions. Another tool, which was developed by Cerner, is being used to identify patients at risk for falls with a 90% accuracy rate. The product, which is about the size of a five-piece pack of gum, analyzes how the patient’s body reacts while walking, and integrates that data directly into the electronic health record, keeping all providers apprised of that individual’s risk for falling.

Results

Hospitals in the pilot program saw a 35% reduction in all falls, and a 62% reduction in falls resulting in injury. Utilizing the toolkit could generate $1 million in annual savings for a typical 200-bed hospital, according to projections from the pilot study.

While the 21-solution toolkit can be customized for each facility, all fall prevention programs should include measurement, staff engagement, consistent messaging, and patient communication. Additionally, fall prevention needs to be the responsibility of all providers, not just nurses.

Experiencing a fall while in the hospital can mean the difference between leading a healthy, independent life at home and ending up in a long-term care facility. Whether assessing fall risk for patients or actively looking for solutions that can make hospitals safer, every facility needs to be aware of existing tools and how they can be implemented to address this serious issue.

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