Background Falls are a leading reason for older people presenting to the emergency department (ED), and many experience further falls. Little evidence exists to guide secondary prevention in this population. This randomised controlled trial (RCT) investigated whether a 6-month telephone-based patient-centred programRESPONDhad an effect on falls and fall injuries in older people presenting to the ED after a fall.
Methods and findings Community-dwelling people aged 60-90 years presenting to the ED with a fall and planned for discharge home within 72 hours were recruited from two EDs in Australia. Participants were enrolled if they could walk without hands-on assistance, use a telephone, and were free of cognitive impairment (Mini-Mental State Examination > 23). Recruitment occurred between 1 April 2014 and 29 June 2015. Participants were randomised to receive either RESPOND (intervention) or usual care (control). RESPOND comprised (1) home-based risk assessment; (2) 6 months telephone-based education, coaching, goal setting, and support for evidence-based risk factor management; and (3) linkages to existing services. Primary outcomes were falls and fall injuries in the 12-month follow-up. Secondary outcomes included ED presentations, hospital admissions, fractures, death, falls risk, falls efficacy, and quality of life. Assessors blind to group allocation collected outcome data via postal calendars, telephone follow-up, and hospital records. There were 430 people in the primary outcome analysis217 randomised to RESPOND and 213 to control. The mean age of participants was 73 years; 55% were female. Falls per person-year were 1.15 in the RESPOND group and 1.83 in the control (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0.65 [95% CI 0.43-0.99]; P = 0.042). There was no significant difference in fall injuries (IRR 0.81 [0.51-1.29]; P = 0.374). The rate of fractures was significantly lower in the RESPOND group compared with the control (0.05 versus 0.12; IRR 0.37 [95% CI 0.15-0.91]; P = 0.03), but there were no significant differences in other secondary outcomes between groups: ED presentations, hospitalisations or falls risk, falls efficacy, and quality of life. There were two deaths in the RESPOND group and one in the control group. No adverse events or unintended harm were reported. Limitations of this study were the high number of dropouts (n = 93); possible underreporting of falls, fall injuries, and hospitalisations across both groups; and the relatively small number of fracture events.
Conclusions In this study, providing a telephone-based, patient-centred falls prevention program reduced falls but not fall injuries, in older people presenting to the ED with a fall. Among secondary outcomes, only fractures reduced. Adopting patient-centred strategies into routine clinical practice for falls prevention could offer an opportunity to improve outcomes and reduce falls in patients attending the ED.