Falls in U.S. hospitals rank high as cause of patient injuries

Hospital patients in Chicago require frequent care and monitoring, particularly the elderly or those in weak or frail condition. One major concern regarding patient safety is the prevention of patient falls.

Sometimes hospital negligence is to blame in such cases. Efforts to reduce the number of patient falls have included the use of bed alarms, which is simply a thin pad put beneath the patient in bed. Each alarm costs about $400. Yet, bed alarms are proving to be unsuccessful in improving patient safety, requiring hospitals to do more to protect vulnerable patients.

According to an 18-month review involving 28,000 patients using 349 beds at a hospital, the use of bed alarms at the hospital had failed to result in fewer patient falls and injuries. One reason these devices are not helping is that the alarms are often triggered when there is no risk of a fall. As a result of the high rate of false alarms, hospital workers eventually begin to ignore the alarms. When a patient is at risk of falling, staff might ignore the warning, thinking that it is just another false alarm.

Due to these inconsistencies with bed alarms, some hospitals are utilizing other safety precautions. Among them include having patients who are at a higher risk of falling being placed in rooms that are closer to nurse stations in order to increase the frequency and ease of staff checking on those patients. Other hospitals require vulnerable patients to carry yellow tabs on their identification bracelets to point out that they have a higher risk of falling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of hospital falls result in injuries. Most of the falls occur between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., with patients most commonly trying to get up on their own to use the restroom, studies have shown. Falls such as these can result in longer hospital stays and added costs of about $4,000.

Source: USA Today, “Study finds hospital bed alarms don’t deliver results,” Frank Gluck, Dec. 5, 2012

  • Our firm represents patients who have suffered serious injuries as a result of hospital or nursing negligence. To learn more about protecting medical malpractice victims’ rights, please visit ourChicago hospital negligence lawyer page.

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