Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hospital focuses on patient falls

Falling down is the leading cause of death at home, with more than 11,000 fatalities reported annually.

The news isn't much better in healthcare settings -- 38 percent of all adverse events are fall-related, according to the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence.

Why are people prone to falling in hospitals?

Mary Bylone, RN, Assistant Vice President of Patient Care Services and Patient Safety Officer at Backus Hospital, said there are several reasons. Hospital patients tend to be on medications, they are usually weakened by sickness or injury and some are too proud or afraid to ask for help when they need it. She noted that the majority of falls in hospitals are when patients attempt to go to the bathroom by themselves.

"We need to let our patients know that we are not too busy to help them," said Ms. Bylone, who is heading a Fall Prevention Team at Backus that is researching evidenced based practices, probing current policies and protocols, assessing Hospital equipment, examining ways to better monitor patients and reaching out to other institutions to see what they do.

Karen Long, RN, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, said fall prevention must be part of the culture of all Backus employees and Medical Staff, as it is a major patient safety issue.

"We must communicate -- verbally and through our body language -- that we are available to our patients when they need us, whether it's a major medical emergency, assisting them with their toiletry needs or whatever else comes up," Ms. Long said. "What might seem like a minor issue can turn into a major one pretty quickly."

The fall problem is so prevalent that the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has a National Patient Safety Goal dedicated to reducing the risk of patient harm due to falls.

[To download JCAHO's Frequently Asked Questions sheet on Patient Safety Goal #9, "Reduce Falls," click here].

HCHAPS inpatient experience survey questions, which patients will begin to receive on Oct. 1, 2006, ask patients whether they asked for, and received, help from nurses or other hospital staff in getting to the bathroom.

"We must stay focused on our fall prevention strategies, and continuously test and reexamine them," said Peter Shea, MD, Medical Director at Backus. "It's not about JCAHO, or HCAHPS, it's about constant attention to the needs of our patients."

Other fall prevention efforts at Backus include a fall risk assessment, which determines which patients are at high risk for falls, and the Total Care Program, which educates certain surgical patients prior to their procedures, so that they are safer in the hospital and at home.

Anyone with questions about the National Patient Safety Goals, or suggestions to help Backus improve patient safety, can call Ms. Bylone at ext. 2771 or Joe Hughes, Director of Quality Improvement, at ext. 2345.

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