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HEALTHCARE MISSISSIPPI — Two thirds of all falls can be prevented

By CALLIE DANIELS BRYANT

Two years ago on a March, Anderson Regional Health Center (ARMC) rose to a call for patient safety by reducing fall risks in healthcare practice, and its successful method became a nationwide practice.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) sponsored a program seeking solutions to reduce fall risks, and selected ARMC along with 10 other hospitals. AHRQ works with the healthcare arm of the government so this specific program was funded by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

“Falls are not just a risk here, it’s a nationwide epidemic. Every hospital, nursing home, centers and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) all have had discussions about how difficult it is for healthcare entities to prevent (patients falling). We were excited to be a part of that,” said Chris Myers, AMRC’s risk manager and patient safety officer.

Myers said in a press release how every patient are susceptible to falling due to medical conditions, medications, surgery and procedures and diagnostic testing which can leave them off-balance.

“We didn’t have a huge fall problem but we expressed interest in being a part of this and we were selected for that,” Myers said.

AHRQ says that nearly one-third of falls can be prevented, and thus challenged the participants to brainstorm such a solution.

“We had a site visit by the organization that first came here to assess our processes and then brainstorm ideas on how we can implement improvements. We had to develop an action plan with action items such as education for the patient care techs (like) involving them more in ownership of preventing falls and caring for patients,” said Connie Lee, the director of quality who worked on the team.

Rising to meet the challenge, ARMC appointed a multidisciplinary team comprised with an estimation of 50 to 60 representatives.

Myers said, “Our team was interdisciplinary. Every department in the hospital had a representative on our team. This program was stretched system-wide from housekeeping to purchasing to physical therapy to dietary to risk management to administration and I.T. If there’s a department, it was on the team.”

After two years of a hospital-wide effort, the team reduced patient falls by 28.6 percent. The medical system records patient falls every 1,000 days of patient care. In two years ARMC went from 4.2 in-patient falls every 1,000 days to 3.0 in-patient falls.

“Addressing patient needs at night you have to determine how often they get up,” Lee said, “what time they get up, and make sure we round them to proactively take them to the bedroom. We found that patients were falling when they were going to the bathroom so we wanted a proactive approach saying, ‘I’m going to take you to the bathroom,’ instead of ‘Do you need to go to bathroom?” We tell them, ‘It’s time to go to the bathroom, I’ll take you.’”

The entire staff, not just nursing, understands that they need to do more than platitudes like, “Call me if you need me.” The medical system now has a “potty schedule” where patients can go to restroom for as often as every two hours.

Thus, ARHS created “Best Practice Falls Prevention Program.” AHRQ accepted this practice and ARMC’s proactive solution became a national practice.

“The final recognition came from our improvement efforts, innovative ideas we put in place and what we achieved and were able to sustain in other projects. Our results were published in (AHRQ’s) toolkit,” Lee said.

The president and CEO of Anderson Regional Health System, John G. Anderson, said in a press release, “We are extremely proud of our team members who developed this ‘Best Practice Falls Prevention Program.’ Due to their dedicated work, the program model will have a direct and lasting impact on patients here and across the country.”

This recognition is a boon for the medical health system, too, as the practice stretches from East Mississippi to West Alabama while serving over 60,000 patients a year.

And there may be more to come. Lee said, “This entire wing of the hospital does its programs where we continue to focus on issues. You know you never quite get there because you’re always striving to get continuous improvements and delivering quality care to our patients, so patient falls is still on the radar.  …There’s no limit to what you can look at in a healthcare organization.”

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