Patient falls, a source of serious injuries and spiraling hospital costs, are about to knock the wind out of healthcare budgets. A 2008 Medicare rule about to come online will eliminates payment for the cost of treating preventable in-hospital falls. That's a blow to any hospital, but smaller facilities could be floored by having those payments withheld.
While many efforts have been made to reduce in-patient falls, it's been a tough nut to crack. "The problem is that most hospital patients are moderate fall risks. We can't find a magic prediction rule that appears to discriminate between people falling and people who fall and injure themselves," says Ronald I. Shorr, MD, director of the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center and professor at the University of Florida Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, both in Gainesville, FL. Shorr was interviewed in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
To be sure, there is no magic involved, but the results of a randomized trial suggest that the use of a fall prevention tool kit (FPTK) can significantly reduce the rate of what researchers rather stiffly called "unplanned descent to the floor during the course of a hospital stay." The study, Fall Prevention in Acute Care Hospitals, is published in Wednesday's JAMA.
In what may be the first instance of health information technology being used for fall prevention purposes, the FPTK included: