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The Joint Commission’s monthly Leadership blog is written by leaders at The Joint Commission to promote the sharing of knowledge and information, and to support and inspire health care professionals in their efforts to improve health care for the future.

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Taking a stand against falls

May 01, 2014 | 22040 Views

erin_dupreeBy Erin DuPree, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer and Vice President
The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare

"Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up."

While this quote from the movie "Batman" might apply to children and superheroes, we in health care know that falls can be deadly or lead to a general decline in health for the ill or elderly. That’s why earlier this week, the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare announced its Preventing Falls with Injury project.  With patient falls accounting for approximately 11,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals annually, the Center began working on new measurement systems and solutions to try and combat this problem.

The result? The number of patients injured in a fall was reduced by 62 percent, and the number of patients falling was reduced by 35 percent. These are exciting numbers not only for us, but for patients and health care organizations. These numbers mean if the Center’s approach is translated to a typical 200-bed hospital, the number of patients injured in a fall could be reduced from 117 to 45 and save approximately $1 million annually through fall prevention efforts.

Working with the Center, seven participating hospitals were able to significantly reduce the total number of falls and falls with injury by using targeted solutions, such as creating awareness among staff, empowering patients to take an active role in their own safety, and utilizing a "validated" fall risk assessment tool. 

The targeted solutions, which were thoroughly tested and proven effective during the project, are strategies developed to mitigate contributing factors. In all, the hospitals and the Center created a total of 21 targeted solutions during the course of the project. As solutions were developed, the hospitals discovered that fall prevention was not a set of disparate and unrelated activities. Instead, preventing falls was a key strategy in preventing or minimizing patient harm.

With a death rate of 11,000 annually from patient falls, we "fell" as a health system. Now, through efforts like the Preventing Falls with Injury project, we’re picking ourselves back up so we can tackle this challenging patient safety issue.

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