Dr. Brian Patterson awarded $1.7 million federal research grant aimed at preventing future falls in older adult patients

Congratulations to Brian Patterson, MD, MPH for being awarded a major $1.7 million five-year research grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) titled “Preventing Future Falls in Older Adult ED Patients: Evaluating the Implementation and Effectiveness of a Novel Automated Screening and Referral Intervention.”

Falls are a common cause of injury and death among older adults, and Wisconsin has the highest per capita rate of deadly falls in the nation. UW Health offers state-of-the-art fall prevention services at its outpatient Geriatric Mobility and Falls Clinic, but preventive care for falls isn’t traditionally seen as part of the mission of the emergency department. As older adults are at higher risk for falls after an ED visit, it is critical to identify older adult patients who are at high risk of falling and to refer them to the outpatient clinic for a thorough evaluation.

The federal grant builds on Dr. Patterson’s work during a five-year AHRQ K08 grant ending this month. Since 2016, Dr. Patterson engaged a team of experts in engineering and computer science to build an algorithm capable of predicting which older adults are at high risk for returning with a fall after an emergency department visit. Dr. Patterson’s team also piloted a workflow in which this algorithm deploys in real-time to identify high-risk patients at the time of an emergency department visit and assist emergency medicine physicians in making referrals to the Geriatric Mobility and Falls Clinic.

This new five-year grant, also from the AHRQ, will allow Dr. Patterson and a transdisciplinary team to expand this pilot program to two additional hospitals in the UW Health network, and evaluate its effectiveness in both identifying high-risk patients and reducing future falls.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to engage experts at UW to study this intervention, which uses technology to provide preventive care for our patients within the context of a busy emergency department without taking time away from our core mission of caring for emergencies,” said Dr. Patterson.

With only about 5% of all submissions for R18 grants typically funded, this successful award represents a major milestone for Dr. Patterson in his career as a physician scientist, as well as for the UW Aging Research Group.

Nationally, falls were the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for people age 65 and older, causing 950,000 hospitalizations and 3 million emergency department visits, according to the data from the CDC released in April 2021.

In Wisconsin, at least $771 million in hospital charges are attributable to falls each year. And 40% of individuals entering nursing homes had a fall in the previous 30 days, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.