A new study shows that having PTs in emergency rooms reduces the likelihood of ED revisits for falls.
Each year, approximately 30% to 40% of people aged 65 years and older who live in the community fall. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, in 2014 alone, approximately 2.8 million older adults visited the emergency department (ED) for a fall-related injury. And, older adults who presented to the ED were at higher risk of ED revisits and mortality, with some estimates indicating that one out of four individuals presenting to the ED for a fall had at least one ED revisit and 15% died within the following year. But the study revealed that having PTs in emergency rooms dramatically reduces the chances of a fall-related revisit compared with patients treated in emergency departments with no PT services at all.
The study analyzed national 2012-2013 Medicare claims for individuals aged 65 and older. Having PT services in the ED reduced the odds of a fall-related visit within 30 days by 35%, and within 60 days by 32%.
More Hospitals Should Incorporate PTs in Emergency Rooms
This isn’t the only new study showing that PTs in emergency rooms play an important role. A second study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine revealed that hospitals with ED PT programs have improved clinical and operational outcomes including increased patient and physician satisfaction as well as reduced opioid prescriptions.
Physical Therapy Services Outside of Emergency Rooms
Physical therapists’ impact on geriatric fall prevention far expands outside the walls of the emergency department. Several evidence-based studies confirm that physiotherapists play a crucial role in the prevention of initial and repeat falls in older patients.
According to the Patrice Winter, PT, MPT, MS, of the American Physical Therapy Association, “Physical therapists have so much to offer in the way of falls prevention and risk reduction. After assessing an individual for his or her risk of falls, we develop an individualized program based on his or her specific needs. Some patients may only need to improve their walking ability and balance, which can be achieved by doing coordination activities such as dance steps, Tai Chi, or obstacle courses. Other patients are more complex because they have multiple health issues, take several medications, or have vision problems. These individuals may require a combination of balance exercises, strength training, and other interventions.”
PT/PTA Fall Prevention Resources
If you’re a practicing PT or PTA, you have an incredible opportunity to make a significant impact in the lives of your patients by preventing recurring falls. It’s essential that you are familiar with the best assessment tools available based on older adults’ needs. The following continuing education courses expound on this topic. You can use promo code PTSAVE to receive a discount on any physical therapy course.
Rehabilitation professionals evaluate and treat older adults in a variety of settings. One of the common factors across all settings is that aging changes are seen in gait and balance. These changes place older adults at an increased risk for falls. Therefore, it is critical that rehabilitation professionals have an understanding of the changes that occur so that they can properly evaluate and treat these patients, ultimately minimizing fall risk. Ambulation, Balance and Falls in Older Adults covers fall risk factors and assessment of these factors including the most appropriate standardized fall assessments. It also explores interventions with therapeutic exercise as well as an emphasis on assistive devices, medications, and environmental modifications.
Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Many of those who survive are referred to physical or occupational therapy. Thus, this course is designed to identify common fall risk factors as well as fall recovery through floor mobility exercises. Safe self-assessment following a fall as well as safe exercises to improve balance are taught. Real patient sessions are used to demonstrate all activities. The best part – this user-friendly program and exercises can be adopted into any program immediately.