ARTICLE: Falls Cost U.S. Hospitals $34 billion in Direct Medical Costs

Wed, 22 Apr 2015



Falls are a common cause of injury, both within and outside of health care settings. According to the CDC, in 2013, falls among older adults cost the U.S. health care system $34 billion in direct medical costs.

The Johns Hopkins Fall Risk Assessment Tool (JHFRAT) is an evidence-based fall safety initiative. The risk stratification tool is highly effective when combined with a comprehensive protocol, and fall-prevention products and technologies. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations can take steps to prevent falls among their patients by implementing the JHFRAT toolkit.

Since it was introduced at Johns Hopkins, in 2003, the fall rate has decreased 21% and the fall injury rate has decreased 51%.

On average, the hospitalization cost for a fall injury is $34,294 (in 2012 dollars). According to the CDC falls are the leading cause of injury death for Americans 65 years and older. Each year, one in three adults 65 and older falls at least once. Approximately 30% of hospital patient falls result in physical injury, with 4% to 6% resulting in serious injury – with fractures the most common. As many as 20% of hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury. Most patients with hip fractures are hospitalized for about one week. Up to 25% of adults who lived independently before their hip fracture have to stay in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury.

With an aging population, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are likely to increase, requiring hospitals to develop effective fall prevention strategies.

Who is affected by this problem?
Any hospitalized patient with the following risk factors:

  • Age 60+
  • Past fall history
  • Urgency/frequency/incontinent with bowel/urine elimination
  • High fall risk drugs (PCA/opiates, sedatives, etc.)
  • Patient care equipment can tether the patient (IV, chest tube, indwelling catheter, etc.)
  • Mobility risk – unsteady gait, assistance needed to ambulate/transfer, visual or auditory impairment
  • Cognition – altered awareness of physical environment, impulsive, lack of understanding of one’s physical and cognitive limitations

The JHFRAT toolkit is designed to help reduce falls during hospitalization. The one-time $600 license fee includes:

  • Johns Hopkins Fall Risk Assessment Tool
  • License to us the JHFRAT at your hospital, either imbedded into your EMR or in paper format
  • The Johns Hopkins Fall Prevention Guidelines by Risk Category
  • Two publications by Johns Hopkins experts about the effectiveness of the tool
  • 15-minute online training module describing the development of the JHFRAT, instructions for effective use and a description of its effectiveness
  • Unlimited access for your hospital’s staff to the online training module

Learn more about the JHFRAT toolkit and increase patient safety at your hospital.

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