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How One Rural Hospital Prevents Patient Falls

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 2, 2013

In 2009 the hospital had 15 patient falls. In 2011 it had 10 falls. In 2012 they had five falls. So far in 2013, the hospital has had just one patient fall, and has vaulted into the 10th percentile among best performing hospitals in its peer group, based on National Database Nursing Quality Indicators.

The dramatic turnaround has not gone unnoticed. Advocate Eureka was a winner of the Illinois Hospital Association Institute for Innovations in Care and Quality's 2013 Quality Excellence Achievement Award.

"Our patients tend to be elderly; 83%–85% of our population is Medicare patients and as a critical access hospital we have swing beds which are skilled nursing beds and more equivalent to a nursing home level of care. They tend to be elderly," says Jane McCully, RN, CPHQ, case manager/quality analyst Advocate Eureka. "There already is a fairly high percent of the population that just fall anyway at home and elsewhere just because of their age. We felt an obligation to do as much as we could to prevent that and protect them while they were in the hospital."

After the 15 falls in 2009, the staff at Eureka formed an interdisciplinary team to tackle the issue. "In 2009 that had been the highest it had ever been and there were a lot of factors that play into it," McCully says. "Three of those falls were the same patient who wouldn't oblige the fall prevention guidelines so there are factors like that internally that play into those numbers being higher. But that was still too high."

The strategy the group came up with was remarkably simple, inexpensive, and effective. At its core was a concerted and sustained effort to raise fall prevention awareness around the hospital.

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