Fall prevention focus of MedWest physician project
CLYDE, N.C. -- Rheumatologist Dr. Kate Queen has spent her career working to meet the unique healthcare needs of older adults.
As founder and medical director of the Osteoporosis Center at MedWest-Haywood, she has helped build a program dedicated to the prevention, detection and treatment of osteoporosis. But she believes more can be done to identify those individuals who are at risk for falls long before the debilitating – and sometimes deadly -- accidents occur.
“Falls are costly, and with the graying of America, it’s becoming an even greater problem,” said Queen. “Ninety percent of fractures are caused by falls. If we can identify people who are at risk for falls before they happen, we may have a bigger impact.”
For the past two years, Queen has been doing just that through a project supported by the Practice Change Fellows Program. The program, sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies, provides healthcare professionals the opportunity to complete a project aimed at implementing a new geriatric program or service line integrated within their organization. Only 10 individuals are chosen annually to participate. Queen’s fellowship ends this fall.
Queen’s project involves integrating fall prevention into the management of osteoporosis at the Osteoporosis Center at MedWest-Haywood. Established in 1992, the Center ranks among the most comprehensive treatment programs in the state.
According to Queen, programs designed to prevent fractures traditionally emphasize bone health. Individuals at risk for low bone mass are identified, referred for bone density testing, and then given recommendations for calcium and Vitamin D intake and pharmacologic therapy, but rarely are assessed for their fall risk, which can result from a wide range of causes including cardiovascular disease, dementia, low vision, foot issues or in a person who takes multiple medications.
At the Osteoporosis Center, patients who are referred for bone density testing also go through a 30-minute fall-risk assessment including the low-impact Single Leg Stance test to evaluate the ability to stand unassisted on one leg for at least 5 seconds. Patients who don’t pass the test are identified at-risk and an individual plan is developed for building strength and reducing fall risk over a 12-month period.
During the first 14 months of Queen’s project, 2,300 patients had bone density studies. From that group, more than 900 were identified at risk for falls and about 20 percent of those individuals who also had other risk factors for fractures have transitioned into the yearlong training program.
For more information on fall risk assessment and other services available at the Osteoporosis Center at MedWest-Haywood, visit www.medwesthealth.org or call 452-8850.