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The Five W's of Falls Prevention to Avoid Emergency Department Visits

Falls lead to more than 3 million emergency department (ED) visits per year. Having a falls prevention program in place can help reduce your patients' risk of falling, decrease their ED visits related to falls and lower their chances of developing long-term health and mobility issues associated with falls.

Who is most at risk for falls?  

 Although older adults age 65 and over are most at risk for serious injury and death, patients at any age could be at risk for falls. Some common fall risk factors include:   

  • History of falls  
  • High-risk medical conditions  
  • High-risk medications  
  • Limited gait, strength and balance  
  • Limited vision  
  • Postural hypotension  

What can I do to prevent falls?

Institute a falls prevention program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries) Initiative offers a coordinated approach to implementing the American and British Geriatric Societies' Clinical Practice Guideline for fall prevention. STEADI consists of three core elements: screen, assess and intervene to reduce fall risk. Take a look at this STEADI Algorithm for details on how to implement those elements.

When should a patient be assessed for their fall risk? 

Anyone 65 or older and anyone who has had two or more falls in the past year should be screened annually. Medicare pays for an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) – this is a perfect time to regularly assess patients for their risk of falling.   

Where are people most at risk?  

Anywhere. Therefore, it is important to screen and assess a patient for being a fall risk so that intervention can take place early.  For patients who live independently in the community,  assessing, screening and intervening early can help them maintain that independence at home longer. Consult this Stay Independent brochure (English) (Spanish) to learn more.

Why should my practice prioritize falls prevention?  

  • Every 20 minutes an older person dies from a fall  
  • Every year more than 3 million adults are treated in emergency departments for non-fatal injuries  
  • Medicare costs for fall injuries total over $31 billion annually  
  • Less than half of the Medicare beneficiaries who fell in the previous year talked with their provider about it

Get more information on falls prevention from the CDC. 

If you have any questions about falls prevention strategies in the outpatient setting, please reach out to Comagine Health Improvement Advisor Edy Taylor.

For falls prevention strategies in the LTPAC setting, read our article here.

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