• practice guidelines;
  • accidental falls—prevention and control;
  • aged;
  • emergency medicine;
  • geriatric assessment;
  • outcomes

Objective: To determine the effect of a practice guideline for the ED management of falls in community-dwelling elders on selected health outcomes. Methods: The experimental design was a pre-post-intervention comparison with one-year pre- and post-intervention phases. The guideline was presented to emergency physicians and nurses during a two-week interval between these two periods. The intervention also included health information provided to the subjects and a one-time educational intervention directed at primary care providers. The number of falls in the year following the ED visit was determined by telephone interview. The number of hospitalizations for falls was determined from the HMO database of all health care encounters. Results: 1,899 patients were eligible for the study; 1,140 pre-intervention and 759 post-intervention patients. Of these, 1,504 (79%) were interviewed by telephone 12 to 15 months after their initial ED visits. Eighteen percent of the pre-intervention and 21% of the post-intervention subjects reported at least one fall in the 12 months following their ED visits (p = 0.162). The rate of falls per 100 patient years was 36.2 in both groups. Three percent of both groups were hospitalized at least once for a fall in the year following their ED visits. One percent in each group were hospitalized for a hip fracture. Conclusions: The attempted implementation of a practice guideline for the ED management of falls in community-dwelling elders did not result in a reduction in total falls, or in hospitalizations for falls, injuries, or fractures.