By Janel Nour-Omid
Fall prevention is a vexing problem for virtually all hospitals and long-term care facilities. The high number and cost of patient falls is well-documented, as are the risks falls pose to your organization’s reputation.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2018) estimates that between 700,000 and 1 million in-hospital patient falls occur each year.
Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare estimates that between 30% to 35% of these falls will result in injuries, with a cost per injury of $14,000 and an average of 6.3 additional in-hospital days.
Because falls have been deemed “Never Events” by the CMS, reimbursement for the costs of treating in-hospital falls is limited.
Current solutions, such as virtual or in-person sitters, are costly and often don’t work well (Greeley, et al.,2020). Bed alarms produce alert fatigue and too many false positives, to the point where caregivers decide to turn them off (Bailey, 2019).
A cost-effective fall prevention solution with no audible alarms, the Vitalacy Fall Alert is now available to healthcare organizations for beta testing. This innovative technology provides 24/7 patient fall monitoring powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Vitalacy's use of AI for fall prevention and unattended bed exits hopes to provide better outcomes than the use of virtual or in-person sitters or bed alarms. Organizations interested in beta phase participation can apply here.
How does the Vitalacy Fall Alert work?
An optical sensor is contained within the Vitalacy Fall Alert, which is hardwired into the ceiling above the patient’s bed. The sensor tracks a bedded patient’s movements 24/7, with machine learning using this information to predict movements that may lead to a patient fall.
“It’s very similar to the process used to develop self-driving cars,” said Tal Cohen, Vitalacy’s chief technology officer. “We collect thousands of videos and images of patient movements with the sensor and then place annotations around those images,” he explained. This visual data is pixelated to keep the identities of the patients private.
The Vitalacy team then identifies specific patient positions, such as sitting at an angle on the bed, that signal the likelihood of a patient standing up, “We look for the specific positions that indicate the best time to alert the staff because doing it earlier produces too many false alarms,” Cohen explained. The team has collected images of the thousands of ways patients sit while preparing to leave the bed, and these images inform the alert’s AI.
During the beta testing, the team will collect even more images specific to the hospital or long-term care facility. “The more data you have, including data specific to a particular environment, the more accurate the Vitalacy Fall Alert becomes,” Cohen said.
When a potential fall or unattended bed exit is detected, the alert immediately sends a vibration and the patient’s room number to SmartBands worn by nearby caregivers, who can intervene before a fall occurs.
In this way, the Vitalacy Fall Alert plans to prevent falls without beeping, voice reminders or audible alarms that can disrupt an entire nursing unit. Instead, the alert silently notifies nearby caregivers who can quickly attend to the patient.
How does the Vitalacy Fall Alert reduce costs?
It can replace expensive in-person or virtual sitters. It’s not uncommon for a hospital to spend more than $1 million annually on sitters, and not all falls are eliminated due to human error (Greeley, et al., 2020). The Vitalacy Fall Alert provides a more cost-effective system, per hour, per patient and per bed.
It improves workflow efficiency. Because the Vitalacy Fall Alert is designed to reduce false alarms, caregivers have more time to focus on other patient-care tasks. Requiring little training and integrating easily into workflow, the alert is easy to implement – staff must only wear SmartBands and respond to a vibration and a message specifically identifying the patient’s room number. During a time of budget cuts and staff and PPE shortages, the alert protects the time and safety of your care providers.
What other positive outcomes does the Vitalacy Fall Alert hope to produce?
Reduces alarm fatigue. Tens of thousands of alarms go off each day in American hospitals. Few require attention or get it. (Bailey, 2019). The Vitalacy Fall Alert delivers a silent vibration and the patient’s room number only to the closest care providers. This method engages nearby staff with meaningful notifications while decreasing disruption among other care providers.
Prevent patient falls and unattended bed exits. Participants in the Vitalacy Fall Alert’s beta testing will receive data quantifying the technology’s effectiveness in preventing falls and unattended bed exits. Fall prevention performance data can be submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), The Joint Commission and Leapfrog Group, enhancing your reputation with patients and potential employees.
Organizations interested in beta phase participation can apply here.
Bailey M. “I feel like I’m in jail:” Hospital alarms torment patients. Kaiser Health News, Dec. 2, 2019.
Greeley AM, et al. Sitters as a patient safety strategy to reduce hospital falls. Annals of Internal Medicine, March 3, 2020;172(5):317-324.
Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare. Improvement Topics -- Preventing Falls.
Preventing Falls in Hospitals. Content last reviewed July 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md.