Original Research

Increasing Mobility via In-hospital Ambulation Protocol Delivered by Mobility Technicians: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial


BACKGROUND: Ambulating medical inpatients may improve outcomes, but this practice is often overlooked by nurses who have competing clinical duties.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of dedicated mobility technician-assisted ambulation in older inpatients.

DESIGN: This study was a single-blind randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Patients aged ≥60 years and admitted as medical inpatients to a tertiary care center were recruited.

INTERVENTION: Patients were randomized into two groups to participate in the ambulation protocol administered by a dedicated mobility technician. Usual care patients were not seen by the mobility technician but were not otherwise restricted in their opportunity to ambulate.

MEASUREMENTS: Primary outcomes were length of stay and discharge disposition. Secondary outcomes included change in mobility measured by six-clicks score, daily steps measured by Fitbit, and 30-day readmission.

RESULTS: Control (n = 52) and intervention (n = 50) groups were not significantly different at baseline. Of patients randomized to the intervention group, 74% participated at least once. Although the intervention did not affect the primary outcomes, the intervention group took nearly 50% more steps than the control group (P = .04). In the per protocol analysis, the six-clicks score significantly increased (P = .04). Patients achieving ≥400 steps were more likely to go home (71% vs 46%, P = .01).

CONCLUSIONS: Attempted ambulation three times daily overseen by a dedicated mobility technician was feasible and increased the number of steps taken. A threshold of 400 steps was predictive of home discharge. Further studies are needed to establish the appropriate step goal and the effect of assisted ambulation on hospital outcomes.

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