The National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators defines a fall as “an unplanned descent to the floor with or without injury.” Even when a fall doesn’t result in an injury, it can still lead to patient fear, which in turn leads to decreased activity, additional care requirements, decreased patient satisfaction, and increased costs. In fact, patient falls are extremely costly to healthcare facilities; one-third to one-half of all patient falls lead to injury, with a single fall increasing hospital costs to an average of $13,316 per patient. A conservative estimate cites 700,000 to one million patient falls every year, which explodes the cost of healthcare services.
Knowing how to identify fall risk patients is beneficial both to the bottom line of healthcare facilities as well as to the comfort of patients. Here are a few methods that may decrease the number of patient falls at your facility.
Critical Role of Nurses
Nurses have the most day-to-day interaction with patients. This makes nurses especially valuable for identifying high fall risk patients. Nurses know that various factors can lead to a fall and are different for every patient. For one patient, it may be medication that has a side effect of dizziness that leads to a fall, while another patient may fall due to impaired physical strength or mobility after a surgery. Other factors include, but aren’t limited to, confusion or dementia, toileting needs, a history of recent falls, and patient age. Nurses provide a unique and intimate perspective for their patients that can help to identify which patients are at higher risk for a fall.
Developing Care Plans
Because there are multiple factors that contribute to fall risk, there’s no single program for risk prevention. There are many components and disciplines that personalize care plans for individual patients. For example, a post-surgery patient may have a care plan that involves physical or occupational therapy to help them regain strength, which in turn helps to prevent falls. It’s also important to get feedback from the patient and from family members when developing the care plan.
Electronic Workflow Stations
Technology has become a crucial factor in identifying high fall risk patients and minimizing risk factors. Electronic workflow stations located outside of patient rooms provide easy-to-read icons to display each patients’ risk assessments. Patient risk assessments can be automatically set, adjusted, and automatically updated with EHR integration directly from the workflow station. This technology updates the healthcare facility, improving the quality of care and presenting the image of a facility that is up-to-date and safe.
Manual grease boards inside patient rooms are increasingly being replaced by electronic patient whiteboards. These whiteboards are used to inform staff, visitors, and the patient’s family about fall prevention. These electronic patient whiteboards can be stand-alone or integrated into the hospital’s nurse call and EHR systems. West-Com Nurse Call Systems in-room electronic patient whiteboard, called the Patient CareBoard, can display information pertinent to fall risk, such as details about patient mobility or information about a new medication that increases the risk of falls. Bed compliance can also be monitored through the system, which sends a notification to the nurse console and the caretaker’s wireless device if the bed is moved out of configuration.
Innovations in technology, like the Patient CareBoard, are what help healthcare facilities benefit from more efficient workflow, improved patient satisfaction, and fewer falls.
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