Original Research

Impact of the Hospital-Acquired Conditions Initiative on Falls and Physical Restraints: A Longitudinal Study


BACKGROUND: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the Hospital-Acquired Conditions (HACs) Initiative in October 2008; the CMS no longer reimbursed hospitals for fall injury. The effects of this payment change on fall and fall injury rates are not well described, nor its effect on physical restraint use.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of the 2008 HACs Initiative on the rates of falls, injurious falls, and physical restraint use.
DESIGN/SETTING: This was a nine-year retrospective cohort study (July 2006-December 2015) involving 2,862 adult medical, medical-surgical, and surgical nursing units from 734 hospitals.
MEASUREMENTS: Annual rates of change in falls, injurious falls, and physical restraint use during the two years before the payment rule went into effect were compared with one-, four-, and seven-year rates of annual change after implementation, adjusting for unit- and facility-level covariates. Stratified analyses were conducted according to bed size and teaching status.
RESULTS: Compared with prior to the payment change, there was stable acceleration in the one-, four-, and seven-year annual rates of decline in falls as follows: -2.1% (-3.3%, -0.9%), -2.2% (-3.2%, -1.1%), and -2.2% (-3.4%, -1.0%) respectively. For injurious falls, there was an increasing acceleration in the annual declines, achieving statistical significance only at seven years post CMS change as follows: -3.2% (-5.5%, -1.0%). Physical restraint use prevalence decreased from 1.6% to 0.6%. Changes in the rates of falls, injurious falls, and restraint use varied according to hospital bed size and teaching status.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Since the HACs Initiative, there was at best a modest decline in the rates of falls and injurious falls observed primarily in larger, major teaching hospitals. An increase in restraint use was not observed. Falls remain a difficult patient safety problem for hospitals, and further research is required to develop cost-effective, generalizable strategies for their prevention.

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