How One Rural Hospital Prevents Patient Falls

John Commins, October 2, 2013

A small Illinois hospital comes up with a remarkably simple, inexpensive, and effective strategy to guard against falls and wins an award in the process.

By some estimates falls among older Americans cost about $30 billion in direct medical costs each year. That number may reach $55 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars by 2020 as the demographic ages and becomes more susceptible to falls.

Falls aren't cheap. Medicare estimates from 2002 placed the average cost per fall for "community-dwelling seniors" at between $9,113 and $13,507, making fall-related injuries one of the 20 most expensive medical conditions among that demographic.

The Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research estimates that in the U.S. between 700,000 and one million people fall within hospitals , resulting in fractures, lacerations, or internal bleeding and driving up costs. Citing research showing that about one-third of falls can be prevented, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2008 stopped reimbursing hospitals for treating certain traumatic injuries that occur because of falls.

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With so much at stake, many hospitals have made fall prevention a high priority over the last few years. Staff at Advocate Eureka Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Eureka, Ill., recognized they had a problem several years ago and created a program to examine hospital culture and preventive strategies around patient falls.

It's worked.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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