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Fall Prevention to Improve Patient Outcomes, Reduce Costs

elder woman sitting with female care nurse

With each year, an increasing number of older adults suffer falls. The CDC recorded over one in four adults fall each year, and those are just the ones that reported the injury. Over half do not tell their provider about the fall. The consequences can be not only serious – the CDC noted 3 million people go to the emergency room due to falls injuries, including hip fractures and head injuries – but also deadly – over 38,700 elderly adults died due to preventable falls in 2021 alone.

How to Address Accessibility

An opportunity exists for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to improve the health outcomes of the patients they serve by addressing patients’ fall risks, and, in particular, patients’ accessibility. As a key component of social determinants of health, access to quality healthcare makes an impact on patients’ health.

ACOs can take steps to support their patient populations by addressing each ones’ unique fall risks. First, ACOs can offer educational programs on fall prevention strategies for patients and caregivers. Second, ACOs can conduct fall risk assessments for all eligible patients. They should then implement targeted intervention recommendations based on one’s individual risk factors. For example, providing accessible home modifications or bringing in-home occupational therapists in to suggest adjustments for a particular patient.

Of note, for modifications to work in practice and not just on paper, the interventions should be tailored to each patient’s needs rather than a one-size-fits-none approach. The effort to do so can ultimately help patients and the ACOs serving them.

Benefit to ACOs

When addressing accessibility in a thoughtful manner, ACOs stand to benefit twofold. For one, targeted interventions that work will result in improved patient health outcomes. Such preventive measures to ensure patient safety and fall prevention measures will keep patients healthier longer. In addition to improved health outcomes, ACOs can see an impact on their bottom line by considering accessibility, especially those working with value-based care models. By preventing falls and making homes more accessible for patients, ACOs should see those individuals who will likely fall less and not end up in the emergency department as often. Further, patients supported in this way could see both a reduction in emergency department readmissions and unplanned hospital stays due to falls.

In addition to improvements in patient health outcomes, ACOs can also benefit financially, as they can expect to see lowered costs – those ER visits for preventable falls come at a high price, as do rehabilitation services. Thus, using targeted interventions to avoid falls in the first place can really reduce ACOs’ costs. Tools, technology, and services already exist to help ACOs in their endeavors to address accessibility. However, not all interventions will garner improved savings, even if they sound good in theory. 

Assess Interventions Effectively

Given the plethora of support ACOs can leverage to address accessibility, it will pay out to consider each before choosing which to implement.  

In the end, patients will see benefits, too, from ACOs making efforts to address fall risks. Ultimately, individuals will experience improved quality of life through maintained independence and ability to engage in activities they like for longer. With the right strategies, both patients and the ACOs serving them can win.

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