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Reducing falls and the injuries that arise from such falls is a major goal of Massachusetts hospitals, which report their falls data through PatientCareLink. And our hospitals are developing the best practices, innovative strategies, and measurement tools that other states are using to address the issue.

In the Vol. 304, No. 17, November 3, 2010, issue of JAMA - the Journal of the American Medical Association - researchers from Partners HealthCare System, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital, report on whether a fall prevention tool kit using health information technology decreases patient falls in hospitals.

JAMA is available through subscription only, but the Abstract text below, outlines the key points of the study:

Fall Prevention in Acute Care Hospitals
A Randomized Trial

Patricia C. Dykes, RN, DNSc; Diane L. Carroll, RN, PhD, BC; Ann Hurley, RN, DNSc; Stuart Lipsitz, ScD; Angela Benoit, BComm; Frank Chang, MSE; Seth Meltzer; Ruslana Tsurikova, MSc, MA; Lyubov Zuyov, MA; Blackford Middleton, MD, MPH, MSc

JAMA. 2010;304(17):1912-1918. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1567
Context  Falls cause injury and death for persons of all ages, but risk of falls increases markedly with age. Hospitalization further increases risk, yet no evidence exists to support short-stay hospital-based fall prevention strategies to reduce patient falls.

Objective  To investigate whether a fall prevention tool kit (FPTK) using health information technology (HIT) decreases patient falls in hospitals.
Design, Setting, and Patients  Cluster randomized study conducted January 1, 2009, through June 30, 2009, comparing patient fall rates in 4 urban US hospitals in units that received usual care (4 units and 5104 patients) or the intervention (4 units and 5160 patients).

Intervention  The FPTK integrated existing communication and workflow patterns into the HIT application. Based on a valid fall risk assessment scale completed by a nurse, the FPTK software tailored fall prevention interventions to address patients' specific determinants of fall risk. The FPTK produced bed posters composed of brief text with an accompanying icon, patient education handouts, and plans of care, all communicating patient-specific alerts to key stakeholders.

Main Outcome Measures  The primary outcome was patient falls per 1000 patient-days adjusted for site and patient care unit. A secondary outcome was fall-related injuries.

Results  During the 6-month intervention period, the number of patients with falls differed between control (n = 87) and intervention (n = 67) units (P=.02). Site-adjusted fall rates were significantly higher in control units (4.18 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 3.45-5.06] per 1000 patient-days) than in intervention units (3.15 [95% CI, 2.54-3.90] per 1000 patient-days; P = .04). The FPTK was found to be particularly effective with patients aged 65 years or older (adjusted rate difference, 2.08 [95% CI, 0.61-3.56] per 1000 patient-days; P = .003). No significant effect was noted in fall-related injuries.

Conclusion  The use of a fall prevention tool kit in hospital units compared with usual care significantly reduced rate of falls.

Trial Registration  clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00675935

Author Affiliations: Partners HealthCare System (Drs Dykes and Middleton, Ms Benoit, and Messrs Chang and Meltzer), Brigham and Women's Hospital (Drs Dykes, Hurley, Lipsitz, and Middleton, and Ms Tsurikova), Harvard Medical School (Drs Dykes, Lipsitz, and Middleton), and Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr Carroll and Ms Zuyov), Boston.

Patient Falls

The National Quality Forum (NQF) defines a fall as an unplanned descent to the floor (or extension of the floor e.g., trash can or other equipment) with or without injury to the patient.

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