Background: Patient falls in hospitals are common and may lead to negative outcomes such as injuries, prolonged hospitalization and legal liability. Consequently, various hospital falls prevention programs have been implemented in the last decades. However, most of the programs had no sustained effects on falls reduction over extended periods of time.
Methods: This study used a serial survey design to examine in-patient fall rates and consequent injuries before and after the implementation of an interdisciplinary falls prevention program (IFP) in a 300-bed urban public hospital. The population under study included adult patients, hospitalized in the departments of internal medicine, geriatrics, and surgery. Administrative patient data and fall incident report data from 1999 to 2003 were examined and summarized using frequencies, proportions, means and standard deviations and were analyzed accordingly.
Results: A total of 34,972 hospitalized patients (mean age: 67.3, SD +/- 19.3 years; female 53.6%, mean length of stay: 11.9 +/- 13.2 days, mean nursing care time per day: 3.5 +/- 1.4 hours) were observed during the study period. Overall, a total of 3,842 falls affected 2,512 (7.2%) of the hospitalized patients. From these falls, 2,552 (66.4%) were without injuries, while 1,142 (29.7%) falls resulted in minor injuries, and 148 (3.9%) falls resulted in major injuries. The overall fall rate in the hospitals' patient population was 8.9 falls per 1,000 patient days. The fall rates fluctuated slightly from 9.1 falls in 1999 to 8.6 falls in 2003. After the implementation of the IFP, in 2001 a slight decrease to 7.8 falls per 1,000 patient days was observed (p = 0.086). The annual proportion of minor and major injuries did not decrease after the implementation of the IFP. From 1999 to 2003, patient characteristics changed in terms of slight increases (female gender, age, consumed nursing care time) or decreases (length of hospital stay), as well as the prevalence of fall risk factors increased up to 46.8% in those patients who fell.
Conclusion: Following the implementation of an interdisciplinary falls prevention program, neither the frequencies of falls nor consequent injuries decreased substantially. Future studies need to incorporate strategies to maximize and evaluate ongoing adherence to interventions in hospital falls prevention programs.