Fall Injury Prevention in Hospital Settings
New Jersey Attorneys for Clients Injured from Falls in Hospitals
Falls in the hospital are undoubtedly problematic, causing significant injuries like head trauma and fractures in one-third of patients. In fact, studies suggest that falls occur on between 3 and 5 of every 1,000 days in hospital settings. In addition, estimated fall rates from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggest that the number of hospitalized patients who fall each year may reach 1 million. The threat of patients falling in the hospital is a consistent, plaguing dilemma for these medical facilities and the workers they employ. Those particularly at risk are the elderly and older adults, as well as those in long-term care facilities. With this in mind, individuals and organizations across all areas of the healthcare system and government continue to devise strategies and tools for preventing falls.
Despite the research and resources available, awareness and dedication to reducing falls is still sorely lacking. Although they should never occur, much less at the high rate that they do, falls still occur in hospitals far too often. In many cases, patients are left to suffer the consequences of unintended injuries from falls while in the hospital seeking treatment for other conditions. When these accidents occur, hospital negligence and negligent healthcare employees may be to blame, providing legal options to those injured. In New Jersey, hospital never events involving falls that cause serious injuries or death may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages for medical expenses, loss of income, necessary future treatment and accommodations, and pain and suffering. Fronzuto Law Group is here to answer your questions and provide zealous representation if you or a loved one suffered harm due to medical malpractice in New Jersey. Simply contact us at 973-435-4551 today for a free consultation.
While you may recover profoundly necessary financial compensation after a fall in the hospital, ideally, hospitals should take measures to prevent falls from happening in the first place. So, what can be done to prevent fall in hospital settings? Let’s take a look at the steps and strategies recommended to prevent hospitalized patient falls in New Jersey and across the United States.
How can Hospitals Prevent Falls?
The Joint Commission governing healthcare organizations’ accreditation advocates for risk assessment uniformity throughout healthcare institutions to eliminate falls and injuries occurring from medical errors. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a federal agency charged with improving the healthcare system, outlines best practices for fall prevention. According to their guidelines, fall prevention must be assessed from the perspective that patients will leave their beds and move about to go to the bathroom, to visit with family, and to gain strength. This reality must be weighed against another priority, which is hospital infection control, so the approach is complex. It takes the entire healthcare team to prevent falls, and each patient has unique fall risk factors that must be addressed. Systems of fall prevention must not interfere with a patient’s medical care, however. In other words, fall prevention must be balanced among multiple priorities.
The Joint Commission outlines 6 fall prevention strategies, which include:
- Raising awareness about fall prevention needs
- Coordinating an inter-departmental fall prevention team
- Using an assessment tool to identify risks for falls
- Developing a care plan based on fall and injury risk
- Standardizing practices that may be integrated into individual and universal fall prevention plans; and
- Analyzing post-fall incidents in teams.
By following these guidelines, hospital staff can better prevent falls and use patient falls as learning tools and training opportunities.
Identifying Risk Factors for Hospital Falls
As part of a thorough fall prevention approach, patients with physiological known risk factors, such as medications or physical disabilities that affect balance, must be closely supervised. A standardized assessment of fall risk factors is crucial to implementing effective fall precautions. Standardizing processes to identify patient risk factors, like fall history, mental condition, toilet habits, equipment, medications and mobility, are paramount in developing a care plan. Particularly at-risk patients are those with altered mental states, whether from dementia, delirium, or medication; those with limited mobility due to illness or accidents and so are using canes or walkers; those with incontinence or diarrhea; those with vision problems; those on medications that affect mental or physical balance; and those who often fall because of low bone density or weakness due to previous falls. Other unknown physiological factors, such as stroke or seizure, require a protocol for post-fall response and care.
Precautions for Preventing Patient Falls in the Hospital
Institution-wide precautions against falls and staff training are the foundation for any fall prevention program, creating a hospital culture of prevention. Some important practices in a fall prevention plan include: getting patients familiar with the environment, maintaining the call light and personal possessions within reach of the patient, ensuring bathroom and hallway handrails are sturdy, adjusting the bed height for patients leaving bed, keeping the bed brakes and wheelchair wheels locked, providing nonslip footwear and night lights, ensuring the floors are clean and dry, and keeping patient areas uncluttered.
Additionally, accidents that occur due to environmental hazards require safety improvements. Regular environment inspection for safety hazards is a vital preventative strategy. Hourly rounding or visits by staff should include checking the environment safety when nurses, assistants or technicians assess the patient for other medical needs, such as pain medicine, hydration, toilet needs, and bed comfort. Moreover, during regular rounds, medical professionals can encourage the patient to use of the call light when getting out of bed. Assessing patient assistance needs for daily necessities, like walking devices or other medical devices, is yet another important environmental assessment for fall risk prevention; for example, surveying whether a bathroom door is wide enough for a person with a walker to enter.
After assessing risk, a care plan must be executed, matching risks with system-wide changes, as well as individualized customization to meet all patient risks and needs. When it comes to preventing falls in hospitals, it is an ongoing process of assessment, application, documenting and analyzing as new risks arise that need to be addressed. To be effective, a care plan must include patient family cooperation, diligent documenting, and patient education. Unfortunately, barriers to system-wide prevention strategies include the hustle and bustle of activity in a hospital, room changes and transportation to different places in the hospital, as well as the need for patient cooperation.
Find Lawyer Help Bringing a Lawsuit for Hospital Fall in NJ
If you or someone you love experienced a fall in a New Jersey hospital, it is critical to seek knowledgeable legal guidance from a professional with extensive experience in the realm of medical malpractice. Fronzuto Law Group has committed over a decade to successfully advocating for medical negligence victims and their loved ones in New Jersey, providing superior representation and hands-on assistance through every phase on the legal process in pursuit of maximum damages. Get help and answers to your questions about bringing a lawsuit for hospital fall injuries in New Jersey by contacting us online or calling 973-435-4551 now. The consultation is free, as is our representation unless and until we achieve a financial recovery on your behalf.
- Preventing falls and fall-related injuries in health care facilities, The Joint Commission
- 6 keys to reduce patient falls in hospitals, Healthcare Business & Technology
- Falls Patient Safety Primer, Patient Safety Network