A recent cover story in Hospitals & Health Networks examined the care processes and technologies that hospitals are using for falls prevention. However, it fell short, because there was no mention of the design of the built environment.
How can such a critical element be left out of the equation? Especially when credible research exists that links the design of the built environment to falls prevention in hospitals.
If I was a hospital administrator charged with reducing falls by 40% (which is CMS's goal for the 3,700 hospitals participating in the Partnership for Patients Initiative), I'd be looking at everything I could.
According to Eileen Malone and colleagues at The Center for Health Design, there are many latent variables in the environment that can contribute to falls, including:
- Unit design
- Nursing station layout
- Patient room occupancy and design
- Bathroom location, door wall design
- Bathroom layout: toilet location, grab bars -- number and placement
- Flooring: coefficient of friction
- Flooring: hardness
- Flooring: pattern
- Furniture: chair and bed height
For more details on these variables, check out the falls appendix in the Evidence-Based Design Glossary. With all this good information readily available, there's no excuse not to be including the environment of care in the safety equation for falls prevention in hospitals.
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