In an initiative that exceeded expectations, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and six other hospitals teamed up with the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare to significantly decrease the number of falls and fall-related injuries in their facilities over an 18-month period.
Each year in the United States, an estimated 11,000 patients die as a result of falls in hospitals. The goals of the Joint Commission Center’s “Preventing Falls with Injury” project were to lower the incidence of all patient falls by 25 percent and patient falls with injury by 50 percent. But by using a set of data-driven methods and tools, the seven participating hospitals were able to reduce the number of patient falls by 35 percent and falls with injury by 62 percent.
According to the Joint Commission Center, a 200-bed hospital that adopts the measures used in the project could expect to avoid 72 falls with injury and save approximately $795,000 annually, based on a cost per patient fall of $11,000. (For perspective, Wake Forest Baptist has 885 licensed beds.)
“Patient falls are a serious problem that have received a great deal of attention, yet defy easy solutions,” said Erin DuPree, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare. “By targeting interventions to the specific causes of falls and using these approaches, real and substantial improvement can be achieved.”
Among the measures employed by the participating hospitals were creating awareness about patient falls among staff members, empowering patients to take an active role in their own safety, utilizing a risk-assessment tool for falls, engaging patients and their families in a fall-safety program and engaging all staff members to ensure that no patients walk unaccompanied.
Wake Forest Baptist specifically tested two targeted solutions in its pilot patient care units: mobility and video monitoring. Based on the program’s outcomes, Wake Forest Baptist implemented these targeted solutions in several other units.
“A great deal of hard work from several disciplines went into this project,” said Rebecca Beauchamp, M.S.N., director of nursing at Wake Forest Baptist. “We have applied the knowledge and interventions gained from this project to save more lives, prevent injuries to our patients and reduce health care costs. As a result of our work, we are helping hospitals around the country provide safer, better care.”
In addition to Wake Forest Baptist, the participating hospitals were Barnes-Jewish Hospital (Missouri), Baylor Healthcare System (Texas), Fairview Health Services (Minnesota), Kaiser Permanente (California), Memorial Hermann Healthcare System (Texas) and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (New Hampshire).
The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, founded in 2008, is an affiliate of The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States.
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