Ohio clinic aims to prevent patient falls in hospitals, homes

While most hospitals aim to prevent patient falls during inpatient stays, Joseph Rosenthal, M.D., and his team at Ohio State University's Wexler Medical Center want to expand that goal to prevent falls outside the hospital walls, Hospitals & Health Networks Daily reported.

The bi-weekly, half-day clinic that focuses on fall prevention is run by Rosenthal, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. A dramatic rise in brain injuries among older adults drove Rosenthal's interest in starting the clinic, which opened nearly a year ago. Brain injury-related deaths among adults 65 and older rose from 41.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2001-02 to 45.2 in 2009-10, H&HN reported.

In addition, nearly 700,000 to one million patients fall in hospitals each year, leading to complications in 2 percent of hospital stays, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Of these, some 11,000 are fatal.

"Falls are a big problem, and unfortunately many people think falling is a natural process of aging, but in reality that's not true," Rosenthal said in a statement about the clinic. 

The clinic assesses patients for their history of falls and medical history and also conducts a physical exam that tests their gait and balance. Patients are also asked to describe their home environment, including how many stairs they use in the home. Based on the assessment, clinicians may advise patients to make changes at home, such as removing throw rugs, adding lights at the top and bottom of stairs and installing grab bars. 

"For some patients, balance is an issue, and yet they may be reluctant to make a simple change and start using an assistive device, such as a cane or a walker that could prevent a fall," he said. 

The basis of Rosenthal's theory is that older adults, the aging baby boomers, want to remain active and independent longer than their parents' generation, leading to a greater number of falls, according to H&HN.

"A lot of patients have multiple risk factors for falling--it might be cardiac, it might be medication, it might be balance, it might be their vision," Rosenthal told H&HN. "And a lot of times maybe none [of the risk factors] was being recognized, maybe just one was being recognized and addressed, but nobody was assessing them from head to toe… that was the idea behind the clinic."

Rosenthal cited the University of Washington's Harborview Medical Center fall prevention clinic in Seattle as a model for his program.

To learn more:
- read the Hospitals & Health Networks Daily article
- check out the statement about the clinic