Training clinical staff in fall-prevention practices and strategies can help reduce serious falls and the need for related medical care among elderly people, suggests a new study, funded in part by the NIA.
Research has shown that falls—a common cause of injuries, hospitalization, and functional decline among older adults—can be prevented through multifaceted programs addressing multiple risk factors for falls. But known prevention strategies rarely transfer from academic study to clinical practice, and researchers from the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, looked at whether interventions educating a variety of clinicians about risk factors for falls would help reduce falls in people age 70 and older.
Working with the Connecticut Collaboration for Fall Prevention, the research team led by Dr. Mary E. Tinetti encouraged clinicians (including primary-care doctors, physical therapists, and advanced practice nurses) and facilities (such as home health care agencies and hospitals) in the Hartford, CT, area to incorporate proven fall-prevention techniques into their practices, providing clinicians with training materials and teaching them how to educate seniors about fall prevention.
After 2 years of evaluation, the researchers found the rate of serious fall-related injuries, such as hip fractures and head injuries, was 9 percent lower in the intervention area than in a demographically similar usual-care area in southern Connecticut. Similarly, the rate of fall-related use of medical services was 11 percent lower in the intervention area than in the usual-care area. Data came from a Connecticut Hospital Association database of information on all state residents who receive care in an emergency department or hospital.
The authors could not say which particular intervention or which group of clinicians accounted for the differences between the two geographic areas. However, they suggest that much discomfort, disability, and health care spending due to falls by older people could be averted by disseminating information about fall prevention to clinicians and encouraging them to adopt changes in clinical practice.
Tinnetti, M.E., et al. Effect of dissemination of evidence in reducing injuries from falls. N Engl J Med. 2008 July 17. 359:252-61.