So stated the American Geriatric Society in their 2006 (and again in their 2011 updated white paper) physician recommendations about falls in the senior population. These papers updated their ground-breaking 2001 report which was co-produced by the British Geriatric Society, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
Since 2001, there has been a groundswell of evidence that links early falls risk assessments and intervention, with a decrease in mortality due to fall related injury. That said…many physicians are not yet aware of their positive role for intervening before a patient fall injury.
July 17, 2008.— Fall-related injuries in elderly people are reduced when primary care clinicians adopt effective risk assessments and strategies to prevent falls, according to the results of a nonrandomized study reported in the July 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. “Falling is a common and morbid condition among elderly persons,” writes Mary E. Tinetti, MD, from the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues. “Effective strategies to prevent falls have been identified but are underutilized…. Reported barriers to incorporating evidence about fall prevention into practice include ignorance about falling as a preventable condition, competing time demands, a perceived lack of expertise, insufficient reimbursement, and inadequate referral patterns among clinicians.”
Even Medicare acknowledges that physicians should ask all Medicare aged patients about their falls history and concerns…and refer for screening or assessment as necessary. Entirely necessary since, in a few years, nearly 30% of our population will be 65 or older…and about 1/3rd of seniors fall one or more times per year!
In 2007, Medicare began asking physicians to be proactive in asking about falls…and again in 2011, when Medicare included falls screening requirements in the Annual Wellness Visit criteria. How do we get physicians to look seriously at their role in preventing falls?
If you or a family member has concerns about falling or instability…let your doctor know about it…and tell them you want a falls risk assessment. If they are hesitant, refer them to Fall Prevention Clinics of America, and we’ll provide resource information to assist your physician. The more they know…the better they can work with you.