Patient falls increased in hospitals as ‘sentinel events’ increased during pandemic

Patient falls increased in hospitals as ‘sentinel events’ increased during pandemic

Patient falls in US hospitals rose dramatically last year as life-threatening “sentinel events” increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report of the Joint Commission, the accrediting body for thousands of healthcare institutions in the United States.

The report, which is based on voluntary reporting to the Joint Commission, is a snapshot of patient safety in hospitals and other healthcare settings and comes at a time when healthcare providers are increasingly measured on their performance. Health facilities with higher error rates or poor health outcomes may face penalties and lower reimbursement rates from public and private health insurance companies.

The Joint Commission classifies sentinel events as “a patient safety event that results in death, permanent harm, or serious temporary harm.” Patient falls are the most frequently reported sentinel event and remained so in 2022 at 42% or those reported. “The remaining major categories were delayed treatment (6%), involuntary retained foreign object (6%), improper surgery (6%) and suicide (5%),” the Joint Commission said.

“Falls have been the primary type of sentinel event examined since 2019,” the Joint Commission’s 2022 Sentinel said. the event data review is displayed.

“There were 611 sentinel events classified as patient falls in 2022, an increase of 27% from 2021,” the report continues. “Of these patient falls, 5% resulted in death and 70% in serious harm to the patient. Major injuries included head trauma/bleeding and hip/leg fracture.

The Joint Commission, which reviewed more than 1,400 sentinel events last year, blamed “communication failures” and healthcare providers who “do not consistently follow policies” as the main causes of sentinel events. Nearly 90% of sentinel events occurred in a hospital, the Joint Commission said.

“COVID-19 continued to present challenges to healthcare organizations throughout 2022, and we have seen the number of sentinel events increase above pre-pandemic levels,” said Dr Haytham Kaafarani, chief patient safety officer and medical director of the Joint Commissions, in a statement accompanying the report. “For each sentinel event, a Joint Commission patient safety specialist worked with the affected healthcare organization to identify underlying causes and strategies for improvement. Our goal is to help prevent these types of adverse events from happening again.

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