Hospitals deal with patients of all degrees and ranges of issues throughout the days and weeks. These run from general issues such as a day visit for a sprain, to overnight stays due to prolonged treatments. In all of these situations, the chances of the patients being unstable on their feet, due to either medications or the injuries and side effects, are decently moderate to high. Because of this, there is a chance of a slip and fall injury happening, which can possibly lead to claims and lawsuits against the hospital.
However, some of these slip and fall accidents can be easily prevented, or at least spotted a bit quicker. This can be done with a test known as a hospital patient fall risk assessment. But, what exactly is a fall risk assessment? To understand that, and how it impacts you as a possible patient, you must first be able to recognize and understand what a slip and fall accident is.
What is a Slip and Fall Accident?
A slip and fall accident is categorized as common issue, one that can happen with relative ease, and without warning. In a hospital slip and fall incident or claim, the slip and fall will generally be tied to, or attempted to be tied to, a problem at the hospital. This can range from such things as a loose floorboard or tile catching the foot of a guest, to a patient taking too many prescription medications that cause them to become unsteady on their feet.
No matter the reason, a slip and fall case that is linked to something that the hospital did can be quite strenuous on the hospital and patient, as the patient attempts to get proper compensation for the accident, and the hospital attempts to dispute the accident, as they are generally labeled as “Never Events”. This is also due to possible cases of false claims made by other patients or visitors to the hospital that makes the staff take such measures, but one way they attempt to combat this issue is to have a fall risk assessment performed on patients at the hospital.
What is a Hospital Patient Fall Risk Assessment?
For patients, a fall risk assessment can be necessary for the hospital to assess the internal and external risk factors that may determine if a patient is more likely to slip or fall while in their care. These risk factors help to determine if the patient needs more attentive help, such as an overnight attendant and extra medical equipment and ambulaters, or if the patient is more functional than others, and is able to maneuver around easily and without fault.
There are two main categories of risk factors that are used during a Hospital Patient Fall Risk Assessment (“HPFRA”). These are Extrinsic and Intrinsic values.
Extrinsic values refer to outside influences that may be problematic to a patient, such as poor lighting in the hallways, slippery floors due to construction or water, or uneven flooring. They can also include such things that are short term, such as clutter built up due to a long day, or from a recent shipment of equipment made to the hospital.
Intrinsic risk factors are factors that occur within the patient's body that generally cannot be seen. These include such things as impaired vision (cataracts, poor depth perception, etc.), prior impaired mobility or balance issues, and such things like low blood pressure and muscle weakness. All of these are taken into account when making a Fall Risk Assessment for a patient in the hospital's care.
How does a HPFRA protect the Hospital?
An assessment of a patient can help to shed light on possible future events that may occur. For example, during a fall risk assessment, if the staff find out that the patient has risk factors inherently associated with persistent seizures and delirium, they would be able to assess that the patient may need more attentive care than others in what is known as unanticipated physiological falls.
There are also other anticipated physiological falls that can be foreseen, such as a patient having a history of falling over frequently, or a patient having an obvious and glaring abnormal or unstable gait that may make them more prone to falling or slipping.
How does a HPFRA affect your claim?
If you are a current patient at a hospital and have had a patient fall risk assessment completed on you, it can be both a blessing and a possible problem if you end up having a fall. If you were judged as having risk factors associated with anticipated and unanticipated physiological falls, and they do not place the proper staff and equipment to help you, they would be liable for that case, due to them being negligent on their part.
However, if you were assessed to be of a bit healthier state of mind and body, and end up having a slip and fall accident, it may be more difficult to prove and connect the hospital to the reason you fell, as you were assessed to be more aware and understanding of your surroundings.