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10,000 boomers turn 65 every day. Can digital health technology keep them STEADI?

Older adult falls startling statistics

By 2050 the U.S. older adult population is projected to almost double, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn age 65. With this great demographic shift – what some have called the “silver tsunami” – comes added pressure, as well as added opportunity, for governments, healthcare providers and industry to address the needs of our growing aging population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries) program is among the solutions that are helping to keep older Americans healthy, safe from injury and independent longer.

Initiated in 2011, STEADI aims to reduce older adult falls by increasing the number of healthcare providers who screen, assess and manage patients’ fall risk, developing and disseminating tools and resources, and collaborating with health systems and partners to promote fall prevention.

“Falls are the number one cause of injury in older adults, but fewer than half of older adults who fall mention it to their healthcare provider,” said Mamta Karani, PharmD, CDC ORISE Fellow and contributor to the STEADI project. “Regular screening is essential in order to identify older adults who are at risk of falling and begin prevention activities.”

And a big part of prevention is making the resources and tools available to clinicians directly within their patient’s electronic health record. “Clinical Decision Support tools built into EHRs allow physicians to quickly assess patients’ risks and identify interventions to keep patients healthy,” said Debi Willis, CEO of PatientLink Enterprises and a software engineer for STEADI. Understanding the value of this early intervention, PatientLink and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center are leveraging GE’s Centricity Electronic Health Record to streamline the fall prevention care process, increase uptake of fall screening and prevention guidelines and quickly identify medications that may increase fall risk. “These digital tools were built to help clinicians – with the ultimate goal to save lives,” Willis said.

Older adult falls. A preventable problem.

“In the face of mounting pressures to improve outcomes while also lowering costs, healthcare providers need as many smart tools as possible to effectively and efficiently care for the growing aging population,” said Elizabeth Burns, health scientist at the CDC who works on STEADI. “Integrating fall prevention resources like STEADI into the electronic health record is essential to make falls prevention a routine part of clinical care.”