Fall Prevention: You Need More than a Monitor

‘Total solution’ is often an exaggeration, but some companies 
come very close to providing just that.

By Tom Inglesby

Falls are one of biggest safety concerns in critical care facilities. The varied population of a hospital unit at any time complicates the problem. Do you have the same protocols for adults, children, the elderly? Is the technical support that has been implemented adequate to handle all the differences?

Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Twenty to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas, and these injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently and increase the risk of early death.

Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas across all age groups. Fortunately, falls are a health problem that is largely preventable. A key role in prevention is a facilities fall management program.

“We provide solutions in the form of fall monitors as well as a very high level of service and support,” explains Mark Bisson, global solutions manager for patient safety at Stanley Healthcare, Waltham, Mass. (www.stanleyhealthcare.com). “We work with partners in the United States, and they provide complete fall management programs, including being part of fall management committees at facilities. The key takeaway here is, we’re a collaborative partner in providing capabilities to create effective fall management programs across the country.”

A toolkit commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) helps guide the implementation of a multifaceted hospital fall prevention program. It shows example interventions and tools, but its focus is on the process for implementation. The guide allows hospitals at different stages of falls prevention implementation to select components that are needed to successfully prevent patient falls with programs that are tailored towards their specific situations.

Bisson comments, “I think healthcare professionals who take the time and energy to care for patients and residents, that’s where it really starts in creating a safer environment. Some of the key steps that a facility can take in creating or developing an effective fall management program start with having a staff that is fully trained, and that’s what we provide.”

He adds, “In addition to the training, we also provide hardware solutions, specifically fall monitors as well as all the supplies and accessories. As the market leader, we are constantly evolving those solutions. Historically, most products have been reactive to falls. What we’re trying to do is move towards becoming more proactive, and eventually we would love to be predictive when it comes to fall management. As a company, that’s what we’re working towards, and I think that’s what makes us unique within the industry.”

Are there technologies that can be implemented by a facility that will help create a proactive environment? “As an industry, that’s evolving,” acknowledges Bisson. “Emerging technologies are happening fast and furious. We’re looking at new technologies to move in that direction. A prime example is our soon-to-be-released Patient Safety Monitoring Solution, which is more than just your classic fall monitor—where you sit on a pad. This takes it to the next level.”

Fall prevention is not just about having an alarm. It’s about providing data and turning it into valuable information for clinicians and administrators. And it’s not just about falls; the data can be used in other ways as well. “I think that we’re on the leading edge some of these emerging technologies,” Bisson claims. “Whenever we design a product, we look at three different customers at the same time. It starts with the patient or the resident, and it’s all about safety for them but with dignity. Part of an effective fall management program is educating the patient; we provide insight to the clinical staff so they, in turn, can impart that knowledge 
as they’re talking to a patient. They can tell them that they’ve done a fall-risk assessment, they’ve deemed the patient is at risk for a fall, and these are the steps that they need to take.”

So, it starts with patients, and the facility needs to design solutions that address their safety and dignity. “That’s a big piece,” cautions Bisson, “but that’s just the first step. We design our products and procedures around the ‘patient experience,’ as we like to say it. For example, our Patient Safety Monitoring Solution is one where the patient is not tethered to anything. All they have to do is get into bed and it will monitor their movement for fall management as well as compliance or wound-care management, vital sign trending, and sleep analysis. But patients don’t have to be attached; there are no wires. Some people talk about a ‘wireless patient;’ well, we’ve developed a ‘touchless patient’ with that solution.”

Bisson continues, “We’ve eliminated the need for a cord, so it provides the flexibility of having the monitor be placed anywhere, inside or outside the room. There are no cords to get tangled in a wheelchair wheel or that a patient or even staff member can trip over. It’s ironic that some fall management solutions have cords that are tripping hazards!”

The second system that Stanley has introduced is integrated into their unified software platform. As Bisson notes, “What we are talking about works with business intelligence and analytics to make better decisions for caring for patients and residents. That’s the second step that we’ll be doing.”

The Patient Safety Monitoring Solution is cutting-edge, emerging technology that other competitors do not have. By integrating a number of products with business intelligence, analytics, and other systems, Stanley is leapfrogging the marketplace and presents hospital administrators with products that are not single-point solutions but facility-wide answers.

When you consider patient safety and patient security, you’ll see they are actually in close alignment. Patient safety issues such as wander management—protecting those who are prone to walk out of a facility and be lost—can be tied to fall management monitoring as well. “When you tie some of our patient safety solutions to our security solutions,” comments Bisson, “I think you see that there’s a synergy there that actually is quite effective. Combining things like security cameras to your fall management and wander management solutions gives instant protection. From the standpoint of effectively tracking, monitoring, and protecting patients and residents from the bassinet all the way to the long-term care facility, I think we’re very proud of our ability to provide solutions that work. We bring a long history and proven stability to our customers. Our fall monitors are brands we’re very proud of that we’ve integrated over decades and are working in thousands and thousands of facilities.”

Stanley is well-known among hospital staff and administrators for their wide-ranging, multidisciplinary approach to safety and healthcare in general. The next time you enter a hospital, take a look at that sliding door as you’re walking through. It’s most likely a Stanley Security Solutions door. And that is just the earliest and most visible sign that the facility is safety and security conscious. From there to fall prevention and monitoring systems and training for staff and patients, Stanley is a leader.

Tom Inglesby is an author based in southern California who writes frequently about medical technologies and improvement strategies.

Inglesby, T. (2014). Fall prevention: You need more than a monitor. Special Advertising Section. Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, 11(2), 52–53.