Using EHRs to identify seniors at risk of falls

April 21, 2016

Already a complex problem, unintentional falls among seniors is a major public health issue. Identifying patient risk factors by re-purposing electronic health records (EHRs) data collected during office visits can potentially help prevent unintentional falls in seniors.

Research in the spring issue of Perspectives in Health Information Management, the online research journal of  the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), examines this issue with the study “Developing Methods of Repurposing Electronic Health Record Data for Identification of Older Adults at Risk of Unintentional Falls.”

“EHRs help doctors make better decisions and engage patients in their care in a way that was not possible with paper records,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA. “This innovative study in Perspectives is just one example of the promise offered by collecting specific data at the time of patient care and then transforming that information into an intelligent approach to mitigating a significant problem.”

The authors explore the feasibility of using EHR data to identify older patients at risk of falls. The authors write that, “the primary risk criteria for falls included in the study are biological and behavioral because these data elements are intrinsic to the patient and therefore more apt to be gleaned from EHR data.”

In the study, only 3.4 percent of the patients had any indication in their medical record of a previous unintentional fall. The authors write, “given the national statistic that falls occur among approximately 40 percent of adults 65 and older, we can be confident that falls are underreported and/or underdocumented in this sample. … Findings from this study draw attention to the need for increased emphasis on fall prevention during routine office visits.”

The spring issue also features the following articles: