Physical Design Factors Contributing to Patient Falls

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The aim of this study was to identify physical design elements that contribute to potential falls in patient rooms.


An exploratory, physical simulation–based approach was adopted for the study. Twenty-seven subjects, older than 70 years (11 male and 16 female subjects), conducted scripted tasks in a mockup of a patient bathroom and clinician zone. Activities were captured using motion-capture technology and video recording. After biomechanical data processing, video clips associated with potential fall moments were extracted and then examined and coded by a group of registered nurses and health care designers. Exploratory analyses of the coded data were conducted followed by a series of multivariate analyses using regression models.


In multivariate models with all personal, environmental, and postural variables, only the postural variables demonstrated statistical significance—turning, grabbing, pushing, and pulling in the bathroom and pushing and pulling in the clinician zone. The physical elements/attributes associated with the offending postures include bathroom configuration, intravenous pole, door, toilet seat height, flush, grab bars, over-bed table, and patient chair.


Postural changes, during interactions with the physical environment, constitute the source of most fall events. Physical design must include simultaneous examination of postural changes in day-to-day activities in patient rooms and bathrooms. Among discussed testable recommendations in the article, the followings design strategies should be considered: (a) designing bathrooms to reduce turning as much as possible and (b) designing to avoid motions that involve 2 or more of the offending postures, such as turning and grabbing or grabbing and pulling, and so on.

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