Improvement of Physical Therapist Assessment of Risk of Falls in the Hospital and Discharge Handover Through an Intervention to Modify Clinical Behavior

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Discharge from the hospital is a high risk transition period for older adults at risk of falls. Guidelines relevant to physical therapists for managing this risk are well documented, but commonly not implemented.


This project implemented an intervention to improve physical therapists' adherence to key guideline recommendations for managing risk of falls on discharge from one hospital.

Data Sources

A pretest-posttest study design was undertaken and was underpinned by the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to aid in the design of interventions to increase physical therapists' adherence to guideline recommendations and to identify barriers to these interventions.

Data Extraction

A multifaceted intervention was implemented, including the establishment of a governance committee, education sessions, development of a “pathway” to guide practice, modification of an existing standardized assessment proforma, development of standardized processes and indicators for handover, increasing availability of educational handouts, audit and feedback processes, and allocation of dedicated staffing to oversee falls prevention within the physical therapy department.

Data Synthesis

There were significant improvements in physical therapist behavior leading to key guideline recommendations being met, including: the proportion of patients who were identified to be at risk of falls (6.3% preintervention versus 94.8% postintervention) prior to discharge, an increase in documentation of clinical handover at discharge (68.6% preintervention versus 90.9% postintervention), and improvement in the quality of this documented clinical handover (34.9% of case notes met 5 criteria preintervention versus 92.9% postintervention).


The approach was resource intensive and consequently may be difficult to replicate at other sites.


A multifaceted intervention underpinned by the TDF, designed to modify physical therapists' behavior to improve adherence to guideline recommendations for managing risk of falls on discharge from one hospital, was successful.

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