Falls are some of the most common events being reported to patient safety organizations today, and according to ECRI Institute, the contributing factors that significantly impact the occurrence of falls can be grouped into four categories. In addition to identifying these groupings, ECRI recently published recommendations for mitigating some of the more common risk factors.
According to ECRI, hospitals would benefit from establishing an interdisciplinary team to develop a comprehensive falls prevention program that takes into consideration the following:
- Patient-Specific Factors
Because certain patients are more prone than others to losing consciousness or their balance, for instance, the use of “teach-back” techniques with patients and their families can be very effective in making sure they understand existing risks dictated by a patient’s physical limitations. Establishing a “Call, don’t fall” policy and agreement is a good practice in addition to consistent toileting assistance and hourly rounding.
- Medication Safety
Including pharmacists in all falls risk assessments is a wise tactic because so many medications carry the potential to impede cognitive and/or physical function and trigger a fall. Units should also consider posting lists of specific drugs most often linked to falls to heighten awareness among staff. Hospitals should even consider restricting conditions under which certain high-risk meds can be administered.
- Environmental Factors
Clinical and non-clinical staff need to be involved in all discussions related to keeping spaces accessible and safe for patients. Topics that should be top priority include: tripping hazards, adequate lighting and portable furniture/equipment.
- Staff Communication
Falls happen when medical record documentation is not thorough enough and communication between patients, families and staff is rushed. So, adopting a standardized handoff process or checklist for use at shift-changes and for patient transfers is key, especially when a falls risk assessment is included.
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