Hospitals work to cut patient falls and complications

Serious patient falls are on the rise in Washington's hospitals, according to reports collected by the Washington State Department of Health, KUOW reports.

State law requires Washington hospitals to report medical mistakes to the state Department of Health and those reports show an increase in serious falls, according to the KUOW article. In fact, falls in the hospital injure or kill patients a few dozen times a year.

While a common occurrence at hospitals in Washington, safety experts say falls "should never happen inside the protective embrace of a hospital," reported KUOW.

Yet accidental falls contribute to patient complications in 2 percent of hospital stays, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

For example, while recuperating from spinal surgery at 198-bed Swedish Medical Center's Cherry Hill campus in Seattle, patient Helen Funson was injured from a fall. As a result the hospital had to redo her neck surgery and perform an additional spinal surgery on her back, according to KUOW.

Meanwhile, at 195-bed  MultiCare Auburn Regional Medical Center, in South King County, at least two patients have died from falls, reported KUOW.  

Washington is not the only state reporting patient falls. Just two months ago, Tri-City Medical Center in North San Diego County, Calif., received a $75,000 fine for an unsafe transfer that resulted in a patient fall.

To avoid patient falls and subsequent healthcare complications, Swedish Medical Center recently revamped its fall-prevention programs with bed alarms, according to KUOW. Similarly, Auburn Regional Medical Center is giving at-risk patients special yellow wristbands and yellow anti-slip socks.

While Auburn has decreased its rate of falls, studies show there is no silver bullet fix to keep patients from falling. Fall-prevention must encompass a comprehensive program, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the KUOW article