Improving SNF staff communication doesn't help reduce resident falls, study finds

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A program aimed at improving communication among nursing home staff didn't help reduce resident falls in facilities, a new study shows.

The research, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, compared the outcomes of a fall prevention program known as FALLS when used alone, and in conjunction with a staff training intervention called CONNECT. Twenty-four nursing homes and more than 1,500 workers participated in the study.

The goal of CONNECT was to teach skilled nursing staff to improve their relationships with coworkers, improve information flow and work on their problem-solving skills. While the program showed modest improvements in staff communication and communication timeliness, it had no real benefit on reducing falls within the facilities.

The study's Duke University School of Medicine-based authors also found no difference in fall rates in the facilities before and after the introduction of the FALLS quality improvement intervention. Both the facilities that used CONNECT with FALLS and those that only used the falls program showed no real improvement in the number of fall risk-reduction activities.

“Many common medical problems lack straightforward solutions that can be managed by a single individual and necessitate coordination among multiple people over time,” wrote lead researcher Cathleen S. Colón-Emeric, M.D., MHS. “This is especially true of geriatric syndromes [such as falls] that have multiple underlying causes and necessitate multifactorial interventions.”

Colón-Emeric said their finding highlights the fact that new approaches to evidence-based care for complex conditions, such as falls, are “urgently needed.”