Original Article

Exploring Communication about Fall Risk and Prevention between Internal Medicine Residents and Geriatric Patients: A Needs Assessment

Authors: Mary L. Thomas, MD, MPH, Uchenna Anunobi, MD, MS, Christopher D. Jackson, MD


Objectives: In the United States, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for geriatric patients. With a growing aging population, medical trainees must gain experience with geriatric assessments, including fall risk and prevention. To the authors’ knowledge, no prior studies have explored who most often initiates fall discussions between Internal Medicine (IM) residents and geriatric (age 65 years and older) patients. Our objective was to determine who most often initiates fall discussions between IM residents and geriatric patients and the barriers to having these discussions.

Methods: This 2023 quantitative needs assessment used surveys distributed to ambulatory geriatric patients, IM residents, and attending physicians within an urban IM resident continuity clinic. We used the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Death & Injuries assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine patient fall risk.

Results: Response rates were 46%, 51%, and 67% for patients, residents, and attendings, respectively. Of the 39 patients who were assessed, 51% were at risk of falling. Eighty-seven percent of patients have had a fall discussion with their residents, and 59% reported these were resident initiated; however, 75% of 28 residents reported initiating fall conversations rarely, and all 4 attendings said that they started these discussions most of the time while staffing patients with residents. Modifiable resident-identified barriers to discussing falls included forgetfulness and lack of knowledge regarding completing a fall risk assessment.

Conclusions: Most patients have conversations about falling with their physicians, but discrepancies exist regarding who initiates them. Data from this study suggest that attendings may be instrumental in starting these conversations. Reminder systems and fall risk didactic curricula may increase resident-initiated fall discussions.
Posted in: Principles of the Geriatric Assessment1

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