Proximity alarm systems are promoted as an approach to reduce falls and decrease use of physical restraints in hospitals, but they have not been tested rigorously. The goal of the proposed study is to test an intervention to introduce and implement proximity alarms on the risk of falls in hospitalized patients at Methodist-University Hospital (M-UH), a 652-bed urban community hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The hospital provides primary to tertiary care to a diverse adult patient population. We propose to test the intervention using a group randomized trial conducted on 16 25-bed general medical-surgical nursing units at M-UH. Nursing units will be randomized within blocks of 2 based on rates of falls that occur during an initial 3-month observation period. Over a 15-month intervention, 8 nursing units will be randomized to receive the alarm-based intervention, and 8 will utilize existing nursing care methods to minimize falls. Intervention units will receive an adequate supply of proximity alarm monitoring systems to apply to all patients considered by nursing staff to be at high risk for falls. An implementation team, consisting of a nurse-champion, geriatrician and biomedical instrumentation specialist, will train and conduct regular follow-up on intervention units to address technical issues related to use of the alarms. The primary outcome measure, patient falls, will be ascertained prospectively by a nurse-manager using a method we have developed to collect patient (e.g., orientation and postural blood pressure) and environmental data collected in a standardized manner. The primary aim of the study is to determine whether proximity alarm monitoring reduces falls. We have designed the study to test the hypothesis that patient falls will be 25% lower on intervention units compared to control units. The secondary aims are to determine whether proximity alarm monitoring reduces the use of physical restraints, or decreases patient care costs. This will be the first methodologically sound study to evaluate this promising approach to reducing falls in hospitals. Whether or not alarms successfully reduce falls, findings from this proposed study have the potential to widely impact purchasing decisions and clinical practice related to fall prevention in acute-care settings.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-ASG (01))
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Yancik, Rosemary
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University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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