Can Technology Prevent Patient Falls?

There is considerable evidence that preventing patient falls can reduce cost and shorten length of stay (LOS).

So, in a cash constrained NHS, can technology interventions really assist in preventing falls and are technology solutions affordable?

Why do patients fall?

There are multiple reasons;

  • Mental health/confused patients
  • Post-surgery complications & rehabilitation
  • Dehydration (a whole debate on its own)
  • Toileting/hygiene issues (just how far away is the bathroom from at-risk patients?)
  • Environmental issues such as ward design, lighting, heating, ventilation and flooring
  • Incorrect equipment available (the right bed, chair, support surface, walking aids?)
  • Overall staffing levels and the correct staff in place
  • Staff education & training for falls management
  • Proper patient assessment for falls on admission and whilst the patient is on the ward

In addition to the above, the hospital needs to have the following in place;

  • Robust (and honest) reporting systems including trend analysis down to patient & ward level
  • Compliance systems for exception reporting/escalation to senior nursing/risk management

That comprehensive list gives an idea of just how difficult preventing falls can be and remember, not all falls can be prevented!

There is much that can be done that can address fall prevention without spending lots of money.

Here’s a question, if you were in bed for an extended period of time and you were non-ambulatory, what would you want close by?

  • Something to drink
  • Reading material or access to music/TV
  • The ability to adjust your personal temperature (additional bedclothes?)
  • The bedside cabinet on the side of the bed that gives best access to the patient’s personal effects without having to stretch or roll towards the cabinet
  • The ability to go to the toilet

I am often amazed how many of these basic items are not easily to hand and if the unit is under-staffed and staff are slow to respond to call bells (I know, that never happens right?), guess what the patient is going to try and do…

Addressing these basic tenets of nursing will reduce falls!

What some hospitals have implemented very successfully is a Multi Factorial Fall Prevention (MFFP) programme.

A well thought through MFFP lays a solid foundation for the introduction of technology solutions that can be cost justified and the return on investment  or ROI (you are going to see this acronym used a lot in the NHS in the future, best get used to it J) measured over the life of the programme.

An MFFP is a ‘top down’ approach to fall reduction and these forward thinking trusts who have implemented one have seen overall fall reduction of 33%, some as high as 50% or more.

The MFFP addresses the risk profile across all patient populations as a trust protocol, but allows the clinician or nurse to exercise their skill at patient level to determine which aspects of the MFFP they can and should use to reduce their patient’s risk of falling.

So, where does the technology fit in?

Technology fills in the gaps where nursing staff cannot always be (at the patient bedside) and delivers the reporting and compliance systems in real time that drive improvements in patient care and safety.

Technology should always be the slave and never the master, the nurse cannot be replaced by remote monitoring systems, it is there to help, not replace.

Those trusts that have embraced multi factorial fall prevention are saving money and improving patient safety & care.

So, in a cash constrained NHS, can technology interventions really assist in preventing falls and are technology solutions affordable?

Yes and forward thinking trusts are enjoying the benefits of reducing falls and saving money.

If you want to know how?

Contact me via Christian.symonds@approachmedicalltd.co.uk or tweet me at  @chris_symonds1  to discuss.