The cost of falls among the elderly has been well-documented. In 2013, for example, medical expenses related to fall injuries for people 65 and older was $34 billion, the Centers for Disease Control reports.
Much work has gone into bringing down that number, including a range of efforts to generate fall risk assessment tools — measures by which a senior’s likelihood of a fall can be predicted. Various scales have emerged that consider broad factors including depression, secondary diagnoses and even gender. Such efforts turn to secondary characteristics to predict the likelihood of falls.
Today’s technology offers more direct means for generating a risk assessment score. Through continuous, passive monitoring, cutting-edge fall prevention tools can deliver reliable data on a resident’s potential for falling. What’s the ROI for such technologies? There is resident wellness, of course. But a reliable risk assessment score also can have a direct impact on a senior housing community’s bottom line.
Resident falls can take a toll on assisted living facility finances via staff time, the cost of responding to and investigating the cause of the event, possible litigation, and other factors. Here’s how implementing and utilizing emerging fall risk assessment technologies can help:
Assisted living staff efficiency.
As resident executives consider risk assessment scores, it helps to see these scores as primarily a preventive tool. Residents identified as high risk warrant more oversight from staff, while those at low risk can be given greater latitude in their activities. This is a financial win: More efficient use of staff can mean leaner shifts, less overtime and greater flexibility in scheduling.
Litigation over quality of care issues.
It’s not something one likes to discuss, but lawsuits over falls in senior residences do happen. Even if the defendant wins their case, no one party ever truly “wins” when it comes to lawsuits in senior living.
Fall risk assessments and proactively utilizing modern technologies to more accurately identify residents at higher fall risk can reduce the potential for litigation: Any time a resident can be identified early on as someone with an elevated risk for falls, it becomes easier to allocate staff to intervene and more closely monitor that individual, preventing more falls from occurring.
Senior living resident vacancies.
Senior housing facilities take a blow to their bottom lines every time an apartment goes vacant. Given the serious medical ramifications of a fall, even relatively minor events may leave a room unoccupied. Residents may end up in the hospital for long stretches; they may need to relocate to a facility with more intensive medical services available; they may die.
Emerging fall risk assessment systems and the more accurate fall risk scores they can provide are vital to providing better preventative care: A fall and subsequent vacancy can happen all too easily when residents have not been properly scored for their fall potential. With an appropriate scoring system based on a continuous passive data feed and artificial intelligence-powered analysis of a residents’ likelihood of falling (or falling again), a resident director has a much easier time of managing population health for the best possible outcomes.
Risk assessment scores need not be elaborate. In fact, simplicity is a virtue. Staff members should be able to tell at a glance if someone is low, medium or high on the fall risk spectrum. They can then take immediate, and appropriate, action as any potentially hazardous situation arises.
Does your facility use automated fall risk scoring to determine which residents are at the highest risk of falling? Have you seen benefits to your bottom line from implementing such systems – or not? Let us know in the comments section below.