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Exploring patient experience after a fall: an AOHT research study

Written by Jeff Dorans, Quality Improvement Specialist, Algoma OHT Transformation Office

In Algoma, falls are the most common reason for injury-related hospitalization. In 2018-19, over 1500 patients aged 65+ visited the Sault Area Hospital Emergency Department after a fall.

In September 2021, the Algoma OHT’s Healthy Aging Working Group submitted a research proposal to interview community members who have had a fall in the past year and accessed care through the emergency department. Falls are significant events that can signal the start of further functional decline for older adults and be strong predictors of declining health. Through this work, the research team wanted to better understand the health system journey of patients who have experienced a fall in Algoma. This proposal was submitted and approved through the joint Group Health Centre/Sault Area Hospital Research Ethics Board.

Exploring the experiences that patients have and what occurs following falls are critical for keeping older adults healthy in the community for as long as possible.

Having conversations with community members about their care experience is an important reminder of why we’re all in health care – to improve the experience that our friends, our family members, and the community have when accessing care in Algoma. This research will help us understand what patients are experiencing when they access care following a fall, which will in turn help us to strengthen that care. - Victoria Aceti Chlebus, Director, Integrated Care (Interim), Algoma OHT

After nine meaningful conversations with community members, our team wrapped up interviews in November. By understanding what patients experience when accessing the health system, we can work to ensure they are able to access the services they need to keep them healthy in the community enjoying a better quality of life. This work will also complement the Post-fall Pathway, an evidence-based care pathway that the AOHT recently launched in the Emergency Department and primary care to help health care providers connect patients who have fallen with the right services in the community. Exploring the way patients have perceived their care experience can tell us a lot about what in our health system is working and what isn’t when it comes to falls.

With the pandemic causing closures in falls prevention and other rehab related programs, it was especially hard to connect patients with the right services at the right time. The lack of social interaction and access to proper health and social services over these past couple years means that our population is increasingly frail and more susceptible to falls. - Dr. Winyan Chung, Family Physician, Algoma District Medical Group/Group Health Centre
Understanding what happens within the system when older adults fall will help us to improve the health of our community by ensuring we are connecting older adults with the services that are so crucial to preventing functional decline. - Dr. Katriina Hopper, Geriatrician/Head of Geriatrics, Sault Area Hospital

Over the next few months, our team will be submitting the results of this work to be reviewed by other scientists and health care professionals so that the findings in our local health system can be drawn upon by other health professionals across Ontario and beyond. Stay tuned for our final report!

Research team members:

  • Dr. Winyan Chung (Family Physician, Algoma District Medical Group/Group Health Centre)

  • Dr. Katriina Hopper (Geriatrician/Head of Geriatrics, Sault Area Hospital)

  • Victoria Aceti Chlebus (Director, Integrated Care (Interim), Algoma OHT Transformation Office)

  • Dana Corsi (Regional Geriatric Rehab Lead, North East Specialized Geriatric Centre);

  • Julie Myers (Senior Friendly Care Lead, NESGC)

  • Jeff Dorans (Quality Improvement Lead, Algoma OHT Transformation Office)

  • Jayme Meser (BScN student, Sault College)

  • Dr. Jodi Webber (Research and Regional Evaluation Lead, NESGC)


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