Multidisciplinary Strategies for Fall Prevention: Integrating Technology and Clinical Best Practices

Falls within healthcare settings are a pervasive problem. In hospitals, as many as one million patients fall every year, and even in nursing homes, it’s estimated that up to 50% of residents fall each year. But this issue isn't just confined to healthcare settings. In fact, more than one out of four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year, regardless of the location.

Although not every fall results in severe injury, approximately one-third of falls in hospitals lead to significant harm, such as fractures, head trauma, or even death. Vulnerability to falls and the potential severity of resultant injuries increase with age, largely due to factors like reduced bone density and mobility challenges.

Understanding the Impact of Falls

Falls are detrimental for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that they pose a significant threat to the elderly, often leading to severe injuries that can trigger a decline in overall health and well-being. In addition to physical health, falls can also be harmful to the psychological health of elders. After a fall, the fear of falling again can lead them to limit their activities, which contributes to further physical decline, loss of independence, and social isolation.

It’s estimated that non-fatal older adult falls cost $50 each year—a number that is expected to rise to $101 billion in 2030. Falls are not only expensive for the national healthcare budget but can also be expensive for the hospital. Since they are considered ‘never events,’ falls do not receive reimbursement because they are preventable.

At present, there is no single solution that fully eliminates the risk of falls, as each patient presents unique challenges and requirements. Effectively addressing this issue requires a multidisciplinary approach tailored to meet the diverse needs of individual patients. Below, we explore several proven strategies that, when used together, can be effective in reducing the incidence of falls:

1. Utilize fall risk scores to anticipate patient needs

Implementing fall risk assessments using validated scoring systems allows healthcare providers to identify patients at high risk of falling. Some of the most commonly used scales include the Morse Fall Scale, the , or STRAIFY . By using tools like these that categorize patients based on their fall risk, staff can tailor preventive measures, allocate resources more efficiently, and conduct more frequent monitoring of those who need it most. This proactive approach ensures that interventions are data-driven and specific to each patient’s risk level.

2. Enhance safety with hourly rounding

Hourly rounding is a proactive patient care strategy where healthcare staff check in with patients at least once every hour. This practice is proven to significantly reduce the incidence of falls by addressing common needs such as toileting, pain management, and accessibility of personal items. By regularly assisting with these needs, staff can greatly diminish the chances of patients attempting to move unassisted. Studies have shown that consistent implementation of hourly rounding can reduce patient falls by up to 57%.

To assist healthcare providers in managing their time effectively, SwipeSense Nursing Insights automatically gathers data and provides actionable insights about hourly rounding compliance. By understanding workflow data at a group level, leadership and staff understand where care providers need support, more resources, or workflow adjustments.

3. Optimize Environmental Safety Measures

Modifying the physical environment is a key strategy in fall prevention. This includes the use of non-slip socks to provide better grip, installing non-slip flooring in high-risk areas, ensuring adequate lighting to improve visibility, and keeping walkways clear of obstacles. Such modifications create a safer environment that naturally reduces the risk of falls.

4. Provide Appropriate Mobility Aids

Providing mobility aids such as walkers, canes, and gait belts can significantly reduce fall risks. These aids support patients during movement, offering stability and balance that can prevent falls, especially for those with mobility impairments. Training staff to assist patients correctly with these tools is also crucial, ensuring safe and effective use.

5. Implement Bedside Reporting and Handoffs

Bedside reporting during shift changes allows caregivers to exchange vital patient information directly at the patient's side. This practice not only improves patient safety and prevents falls, but it enhances communication and involves the patient in their care, which increases their awareness and engagement in fall prevention strategies. 

However, it may not always be appropriate to perform a bedside report, such as when the patient is sleeping or has visitors; in these instances, a bedside handoff can be an appropriate alternative that still improves safety. During a bedside handoff, caregivers still enter the room to visually check on the patient, assess any equipment such as drips and monitors, and quietly verify that environmental safety measures are in place without disturbing the patient.

SwipeSense Nursing Insights supports bedside reporting and handoffs by monitoring the frequency and quality of these interactions, providing crucial compliance data and helping staff build this practice into their routine. This tool helps improve communication and reinforces safe practices that ultimately lower the chances of patient falls and improve overall care continuity.

6. Utilize patient sitters

Patient sitters, also known as safety assistants or constant observers, play a crucial role in fall prevention by providing direct, continuous observation of high-risk patients. Utilized across various healthcare settings, sitters are especially valuable for monitoring patients prone to falls, those in psychiatric crisis, or individuals exhibiting confusion and agitation.

Although a sitter is not appropriate for every fall-risk patient, sitters can make a significant difference in ensuring patient safety. Their presence has been correlated with lower rates of falls with harm, indicating their effectiveness as part of comprehensive fall prevention strategies.

Leveraging Technology for Fall Prevention

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing patient safety and reducing the incidence of falls. SwipeSense Nursing Insights is at the forefront of integrating technology into fall prevention strategies. These tools streamline workflows and ensure continuous monitoring, providing healthcare providers with the real-time data they need to prevent falls effectively.

However, fall prevention requires a multidisciplinary approach to achieve the best outcomes. By integrating SwipeSense technology with other established fall prevention strategies, healthcare facilities can create a robust safety net around their patients. This comprehensive approach not only safeguards patients but also helps reduce the significant costs associated with falls, driving improvements in both patient care and operational efficiency.