WA research reports world-first reduction in injurious falls

Dr Anne-Marie Hill has lead a research study investigating falls prevention strategies
in older patients through targeted education programs.

10 April 2015

A research study, led by Dr Anne-Marie Hill from The University of Notre Dame Australia's School of Physiotherapy and Institute for Health Research, has found that individualised education programs which engage older patients in falls prevention strategies can reduce falls and cases of injury resulting from falls by more than 40 per cent.

The groundbreaking study, published in the recent edition of UK health journal The Lancet, shows targeted education programs which encourage patient feedback and train hospital staff can effectively reduce cases of injurious falls in older hospital patients.

The trial, involving more than 3500 people conducted across eight Western Australian aged care rehabilitation units, encourage patients to develop strategies to improve their safety whilst in hospital which was informed by educational tools including a short video clip and workbook.

Patients' strategies were used also to influence safety practices on individual wards as well as in the training of hospital staff to better manage falls' prevention with older patients.

Researchers estimate that throughout the course of the study they could have prevented approximately 320 falls, alleviating more than $750,000 of potential expenditure by the health system.

With falls being Australia's leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in older people, Dr Hill hopes this research can deliver improved reforms in patient education and contribute to maintaining the health and independence of the country's ageing population.

"This is the first time in the world that providing a single intervention in a hospital setting has significantly reduced injurious falls which is pleasing," Dr Hill said.

"Patients have been positive about receiving clear education about how they can assist their own recovery. Our team hopes this education package can be rolled out widely across rehabilitation units that admit older patients as an effective tool to reduce falls in these high risk settings.

"Communicating with our patients about how they can undertake safe strategies while they are in hospital allows them to be actively involved in their own recovery efforts and, hopefully, a reduction in any serious rehabilitation setbacks as a result."

The study was funded by the State Health Research Advisory Council and the Department of Health, with the collaborative team including Dr Nicholas Waldron (WA Health), who was a principal investigator, and Professor Terry Haines (Monash University), education program developer.

To view the falls prevention educational video used as part of the study, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyGaYVz1d1o.

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093; leigh.dawson@nd.edu.au