How to Prevent Falls in the Hospital

A lack of mobility impacts most hospitalized patients – adults admitted to the hospital who were previously ambulatory will spend up to 83% of the day in bed.1 A lack of mobility can have significant implications for hospitals, from patient safety risks to care outcomes including length of stay.2

One of the chief safety concerns tied to mobility is patient falls. According to the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, up to 1 million U.S. patients fall in the hospital each year, and some of those falls can be prevented.3 Additionally, according to Joint Commission 2022 sentinel event data, patient falls have been the leading sentinel event type reviewed since 2019. 

While reducing patient falls is a goal that is shared by the entire care team, they are balancing many competing priorities at a time when resources are stretched thin. Many hospitals have effectively reduced patient falls by adopting comprehensive safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) programs. Best practices in SPHM include: 

  • Create a Culture of Safety: it takes an organization-wide effort to establish an environment where fall prevention becomes so automatic that it is woven into daily activities. That requires a commitment from the leadership team that is visible to staff, whether that’s by starting meetings talking about SPHM or by senior leaders personally rounding in the units to discuss its importance. It’s also important to establish a just culture that recognizes and rewards positive safety behaviors such as sharing when mistakes or potential mistakes happen to provide an opportunity to make improvements and prevent future harm. 
  • Standardize Simple Mobility Assessments: providing the care team with a consistent way to assess patient mobility gives visibility regarding each patient’s ability to everyone involved in their care. It also creates consistency to identify patients who need assistance to move. The assessment should be built into existing workflows to make it easy for the care team to assess and document mobility status – just as we see for vitals and other critical patient information. 
  • Measure Progress: It is important to measure mobilization activities and patient fall trends as part of a facility’s quality and safety metrics. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could also help by adding mobility-specific measures in CMS quality reporting programs associated with acute care hospitals.
  • Maximize Mobility Technology: when deployed as part of an SPHM program, overhead and mobile lift systems will help either a dedicated mobility team or the immediate care team safely mobilize patients, such as helping a patient sit or stand up. Advanced smart beds can also help by monitoring patient exits from the bed and alarming the care team when they occur.