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Health Care Policy and Law
June 2017

The Tension Between Promoting Mobility and Preventing Falls in the Hospital

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3GRECC (182), Malcom Randall VAMC and Department of Epidemiology, University of Florida, Gainesville
  • 4Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 5Aging Brain Center, Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(6):759-760. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.0840

When older adults are hospitalized, there is an inherent tension between preventing falls and promoting mobility. In response to public and professional attention to medical errors, federal policy and, in turn, hospital culture have strongly prioritized preventing falls, with potential unintended consequences for patient mobility, functional ability, and well-being.1 It has been known for years, however, that patient immobility in the hospital contributes to undesirable outcomes, such as increased rates of functional decline and institutionalization.

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