"If death follows a minor injury, such as a rib fracture, it is likely to occur weeks or months later as the result of pneumonia or other complications," the paper said.
The second highest jump in coding was those deaths classified as falls among seniors involving wheelchairs or furniture, which were listed at 2.1 per 100,000 in 1999 but rose to 3 in 2007. Two other types of falls, such as those attributed to slipping or tripping or falls on or from stairs, fluctuated slightly but in essence, remained the same over 1999-2007.
The long transition to correctly report fall-related deaths is not surprising, Baker notes. "These things don't happen overnight. When people started wearing seatbelts, a death involving a vehicle collision in which the passenger or driver failed to wear a seatbelt took 30 years to code correctly," after which failure to wear a seatbelt as a cause of death went from 12% to 90%.
Baker says the jump in falls among this population should not only emphasize the importance of accurate coding, but also prompt clinicians to be on a much more attentive lookout for this risk in their patients and take greater precautions.