Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States fall in the hospital each year, and a third to a half of those falls result in injuryi.
Much has been said and written about how to prevent falls and reduce their impact. The Joint Commission prescribes a combination of hospital technology and best practices such as identifying risk factors, developing an individualized plan of care, and standardizing hand-off communication. PSNet advocates strategies such as identifying patients at risk, environmental measures, and clinical, care-process, and technological interventionsii.
Hospital technology can play a role in fall prevention. The right technology can bring together information from a variety of processes and systems to give leaders a robust picture of where intervention is needed. And, it can allow care teams to respond faster to prevent a fall before it happens.
Technology is enabling the “things” in our everyday lives to become connected with us and each other. In fact, it’s estimated that by the year 2020 there will be nearly as many things connected to networks as there are people on earth.
As they’re getting connected, things are also getting smarter. In our homes it’s things like our appliances telling us or the manufacturer when they need maintenance. It’s our doorbells telling us when someone is at the door or a package has arrived. It’s our doors or windows letting us know we’ve left them open after we go to bed. We are connected and mobile and so are all our things. And, those things are letting the right person know when there’s an issue they need to pay attention to.
Just like the “things” in our personal lives, beds and other equipment in the hospital are becoming increasingly smart. For example, beds have sensors that can alarm when a bed rail goes down or when a patient gets up. Wearable devices with built-in accelerometers can alarm when a patient stands.
All these devices and clinical systems are also becoming increasingly connected. They can integrate with communication systems, which can send secondary alert and alarm notifications to care team members on the mobile devices they wear or carry.
But not every alarm is relevant or necessary. Software is smart enough to know how at risk a patient is for falling. It’s smart enough to send only the relevant alerts to the relevant care team members.
The Vocera Platform can integrate with hospital technology sources like smart beds, and with the electronic health record where it can see a patient’s fall risk score. It can weigh variables and know if a patient getting out of bed is at risk for falling or not, and send a secondary alarm notification only if it’s relevant. The Vocera Platform also knows who the right recipient is for an alert or alarm notification. And if that person is unavailable or their device is on Do Not Disturb mode, it knows who the next person is in the escalation path.
Hospitals can use technology and best practices to enable delivery of fall-risk alerts and alarms to the right person or group at the right time, with the right context, and to allow real-time intervention. As an example, after the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences integrated Vocera technology with Posey Sitter Select bed exit alarms, nurses could respond to an alarm in five seconds or less.
We are connected and mobile and so are devices and systems in the hospital. When devices and systems let us know when there’s an issue we need to pay attention to, Vocera makes it easier to respond.
i The Joint Commission. Sentinel Event Alert 55, Preventing falls and fall-related injuries in health care facilities, September 28, 2015, https://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/SEA_55.pdf.