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December 12
​Wake County EMS and Local Doctors Work Together to Care for Fallen Seniors

Study shows new protocol would reduce unnecessary ambulance transport

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury for adults aged 65 years or older who are treated in emergency departments across the country. Residents of assisted living facilities who fall may not be seriously hurt, but policies still require them to be transported to the emergency department. These patients may face unnecessary risks in the emergency department, such as exposure to infection.

Wake County Emergency Medical Services partnered with Doctors Making Housecalls to study whether people who experience simple falls in an assisted living facility can be safely treated without ambulance transport.

Over a 43-month period, specially trained paramedics determined that 66 percent of fall patients in the study would receive a visit from a primary care doctor within 18 hours instead of being taken to the emergency department. Ninety-eight to 99 percent of the patients who were not transported to the hospital and treated at the assisted living facility received safe, appropriate care.

“We found that we could safely reduce EMS transports for some fall patients, which serves them better and is more patient-centered care,” said Dr. Jefferson Williams, deputy medical director at Wake County EMS and the primary study author. “With the right arrangements in place, this type of partnership can benefit assisted living residents, their primary care group and the EMS system alike.”

Primary care physician groups that are interested in learning more about the protocol used in the study and potentially adopting it for their organizations should contact Wake County EMS.

The findings of the study have been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.


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