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Education programme helps prevent falls and related injuries in hospital trial

A falls prevention education intervention tested in a randomised controlled trial in Australian hospitals has proved successful in reducing falls, including in patients with cognitive impairment.

Eight hospital rehabilitation units were in the 50-week trial. Units were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups.

Patients admitted to the units with a Mini-Mental State Examination score of more than 23/30 received individualised education from a trained health professional, in addition to usual care.

Patients were encouraged to ask for assistance from members of staff

Picture credit: Alamy

Staff were trained to support patients in preventing falls, and were provided with information about patients’ goals, feedback about the ward environment, and perceived barriers to engagement in falls prevention strategies.

During the trial period from January to December 2013, 3,606 patients were admitted to the units. More than half of patients in the intervention group (56%) received individual patient education on the basis of their cognitive status. Frequently set patient goals included: ring call bell for assistance; wait for help from staff; and use walking aid. Feedback to staff included: clarify mobility levels to ensure accurate instructions are given to patients; provide a consistent level of assistance; and always leave the call bell within reach.

At total of 574 falls involving 384 participants occurred during the 50 weeks of the trial, of which 197 (34%) caused injury. The overall rate of falls was 10.9 per 1,000 patient days. There were fewer falls, injurious falls and patients who had falls in the intervention group than in the control group.

The trial is the first in hospital wards to show that a single intervention programme can prevent falls and related injuries.

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