Accidental falls by older patients in hospital are one of the most commonly reported adverse events. Falls after discharge are also common. These falls have enormous physical, psychological and social consequences for older patients, including serious physical injury and reduced quality of life, and are also a source of substantial cost to health systems worldwide. There have been a limited number of randomised controlled trials, mainly using multifactorial interventions, aiming to prevent older people falling whilst inpatients. Trials to date have produced conflicting results and recent meta-analyses highlight that there is still insufficient evidence to clearly identify which interventions may reduce the rate of falls, and falls related injuries, in this population.
Methods and design
A prospective randomised controlled trial (n = 1206) is being conducted at two hospitals in Australia. Patients are eligible to be included in the trial if they are over 60 years of age and they, or their family or guardian, give written consent. Participants are randomised into three groups. The control group continues to receive usual care. Both intervention groups receive a specifically designed patient education intervention on minimising falls in addition to usual care. The education is delivered by Digital Video Disc (DVD) and written workbook and aims to promote falls prevention activities by participants. One of the intervention groups also receives follow up education training visits by a health professional. Blinded assessors conduct baseline and discharge assessments and follow up participants for 6 months after discharge. The primary outcome measure is falls by participants in hospital. Secondary outcome measures include falls at home after discharge, knowledge of falls prevention strategies and motivation to engage in falls prevention activities after discharge. All analyses will be based on intention to treat principle.
This trial will examine the effect of a single intervention (specifically designed patient education) on rates of falls in older patients in hospital and after discharge. The results will provide robust recommendations for clinicians and researchers about the role of patient education in this population. The study has the potential to identify a new intervention that may reduce rates of falls in older hospital patients and could be readily duplicated and applied in a wide range of clinical settings.