Every year, hundreds of thousands of hospitalized patients fall. Now, hospitalists can get help in dramatically reducing those numbers. According to Erin DuPree, MD, FACOG, vice president and chief medical officer at The Joint Commission's Center for Transforming Healthcare, 30% to 50% of inpatients sustain an injury in a fall, incurring hospital costs of roughly $14,000 and adding, on average, 6.3 days to a hospital stay. It's an ongoing challenge.
"Hospitals have been working on preventing falls forever," Dr. DuPree says. "It's complex, and we needed to look at this in a data-driven way."
The center has done just that, and the result is a new web application called the Preventing Falls Targeted Solutions Tool. Anyone at a Joint Commission–accredited organization can gain complimentary access to the app, which guides users through a systematic, data-driven, Lean Six Sigma approach to reducing falls.
"It guides them through data collection and analyzes the data," Dr. DuPree adds. "Then the tool identifies your top contributing factors to falls and the solutions for those factors. We know every hospital has different contributing factors that matter; this is very local and dependent on the data that's entered."
Seven healthcare institutions in Missouri, Texas, Minnesota, California, North Carolina, and New Hampshire assisted the Joint Commission in developing the tool. Altogether, the pilot institutions reduced their rate of falls by an average of 35% and decreased their rate of patients injured in a fall by an average of 62%.
Hospitalists have a crucial role to play in bringing this process to their own workplace. "It's an opportunity for them to assert their leadership in their clinical role by collaborating with other disciplines on a big patient-safety issue," Dr. DuPree says.
It's also an opportunity for hospitalists to learn about quality improvement, she adds. "If they want to learn something about Lean Six Sigma," she says, "they can do a pilot project on their unit. I hope hospitalists gain access to the tool and start a falls project or work with their team to see what things in the tool could be of value to them."