Patient falls are a leading cause of preventable injury in hospitals nationwide. Every year between 700,000 to 1,000,000 patients fall in hospitals across the US, and nearly one-third of these falls are preventable. In addition to unreimbursed care costs, legal claims, and reputational damage, patient falls also carry a significant cost in human suffering.

The significant costs and risks associated with patient falls coupled with the increased focus on quality has inspired widespread patient safety efforts. To help decrease fall injuries and improve safety, healthcare facilities utilize an arsenal of various evidence-based interventions. One of the more commonly used safety measures includes the implementation of a Hospital Sitter Program. A Hospital Sitter Program or The Use of Observation assistants (or “patient sitters”) is the direct observation of patients to provide a safer environment.

Observation assistants are used to observe patients in a variety of different care settings, including patients at high risk for falls; patients in psychiatric crisis; patients at risk for harming others; patients with substance-abusing or behavioral problems; or for patients experiencing delirium, confusion, or agitation. Hospitals may utilize patient sitters in both clinical and nonclinical capacities. However, most commonly they are used to monitor patients that present a significant risk of injury or self-harm, to ensure their safety.

Cost of a Hospital Sitter Program

The cost-effectiveness of Hospital Sitter Programs has been questioned, as they are expensive and rarely reimbursed. Research has shown that Hospital Sitter Programs cost hospitals from $500,000 to over $2,000,000 annually, and these costs are steadily increasing. Furthermore, the use of patient sitters is not supported by a substantial body of clinical evidence. However, despite the lack of evidence, the elimination of sitters to reduce costs has not been adequately supported either.

Do Patient Sitters Prevent Falls?

Research including 75 Pennsylvania hospitals found a statistically significant correlation between lower fall rates and the use of patient sitters through the implementation of a Hospital Sitter Program, and specific program design elements.

A comprehensive review of literature including articles published between 1995-2013 found that utilizing patient sitters to reduce fall rates showed inconsistent results. Overall, research suggests that despite the widespread adoption of the use of sitters as an intervention, there is conflicting evidence that supports it as an effective and proven fall prevention method.

Reduce Costs with Alternatives to Sitters in Hospitals

Recently, there has been an increased focus on the implementation of more cost-effective and proven fall prevention measures. Some of these interventions that have demonstrated success in preventing harm include symptom triggered protocols, staff education, and video monitoring.

The use of video-monitoring has been carefully examined as a more cost-efficient alternative to direct monitoring with patient sitters. Multiple studies have found evidence that the use of video monitoring is a suitable and more cost-effective alternative.

One study, published in the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, showed a significant decrease in costs without an increase in patient falls or self-harm events when video monitoring was used for patients requiring constant observation. The cost savings realized for the facility was over $500,000 in the first year, and annually since year 1. These findings are significant and suggest it is possible to provide lower cost care without a risk to patient safety through the use of video monitoring instead of in-room sitters. The study concluded that video monitoring was less expensive than sitters and did not impose a patient safety risk for falls or self-harm.

Additional research published in Rehabilitation Nursing found that after the implementation of a video monitoring system, the reduction in falls hospital-wide was statistically significant. There was also a substantial cost savings by reducing sitter usage. The cost analysis supported the utilization of video monitoring, allowing the hospital to realize considerable savings as a result of the reduction in staff. In 12 months, the hospital saved roughly $186,120 on sitters. This study proved that video monitoring improved patient safety by reducing falls, decreased costs associated with sitter use, and improved patient, family, and staff satisfaction.

A study published by the Health Research & Educational Trust showed a 27 percent reduction in overall falls, and a whopping 59 percent reduction in falls with injury.

Overall, the research suggests video-monitoring as a safe and effective intervention for improving safety and preventing falls. Video-monitoring was also associated with a significant decrease in costs. In conclusion, the cost savings associated with the reduction in staff, due to the implementation of video monitoring allows hospitals to realize ROI more rapidly.

How can healthcare facilities utilize innovative technology such as the NOVA video-monitoring system to reduce falls and improve patient safety?

The NOVA patient video-monitoring solution can provide constant monitoring of multiple patients without the cost of 1:1 sitters. With NOVA, one or two observation technicians can monitor up to 15 patients from a secure location. The system provides unified real-time communication and notifications with patients and staff, measurable and customizable patient auditing tools and reporting, reliable real-time monitoring for quick interpretation and health decisions, and seamless data integration across multiple clinical systems. NOVA also allows staff to communicate with patients through both voice and video displays, including translation into the patient’s native language.

For more information regarding how your facility can reduce costs and improve patient safety through the utilization of the Nursing Observation and Virtual Assistant System (NOVA) by Watcher Healthcare Solutions visit: https://wachterhealth.com or contact us to schedule a free demo at 833.467.9226.