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Patients should not face fall risks in hospitals

A person can slip or trip and fall anywhere in New York, but many have this type of accident in the very place where their health should be improving: the hospital. According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, not only are falls among the most serious and common adverse events in hospitals, they are also preventable. Due to the huge impact these injuries have, much research has gone into developing procedures for avoiding them.

How big is the problem? The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that 700,000 to 1 million people fall in U.S. hospitals annually. While not every fall results in an injury, they often cause cuts, broken bones or internal bleeding, and patients frequently have to stay in the hospital longer to recover from the fall.

During the process of developing strategies for fall prevention, hospital administration is encouraged to identify the safety culture already present in the facility, and work to draw attention to and support for changes. Action plans to protect patients include the following:

  • Track falls and collect data to identify causes
  • Recognize common risk factors that cause patient falls
  • Address risks by designing tasks to reduce or eliminate them
  • Train employees to recognize risks and assign targeted risk reduction duties to them
  • Assess patients for general and specific fall risks, including health, medication, mobility and other factors

Because this type of program involves every department, the program should be multi-disciplinary, and coordination and communication throughout the facility are critical for success. The AHRQ and other professional organizations provide tools to assist hospitals in protecting patients from harm.


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