Patient observers/sitters are currently a huge investment for medical facilities. Observation is not covered by insurance, which shifts the costs to the facility, which can be upwards of $1.3 million per year.1 The purpose of this study is to discuss the issue and need of training for observers, and to provide IAHSS member facilities with industry best practices for training observers for high-risk patients. By utilizing a well-designed patient observer training program, facilities can maximize the efficiency of their observers and create a safer care environment for both the staff and patients.
Providing observers to patients offers several benefits. For instance, observation allows direct patient safety monitoring. The use of observation has also led to a decrease in patient elopements, which are known to increase the risk for falls and injuries2. Falls can often impact several aspects of the patient’s health and treatment: the patient’s length of stay, unexpected treatment, and healthcare costs. Falls can even force the individual to lose his or her independence and, in some cases, cause death. Observers are extremely effective in preventing injury, which in turn makes the facility more cost effective. More than 25 percent of all falls contribute to debilitating injuries, and can often cause the need to transfer the patient to a higher level of care.3 Also, more than 500,000 falls occur annually in hospital settings, resulting in 150,000 injuries, at a price of $17,627 per event.4
These costs could be dramatically lowered with the proper training for observers. A lack of a training system yields poor patient safety outcomes, which stem from inconsistent
patient safety monitoring.