Using multiple data sources to answer patient safety-related research questions in hospital inpatient settings: A discursive paper using inpatient falls as an example

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Aim and objectives. This education-focused paper presents a discussion of possible data sources used in patient safety issues specific to fall reduction in hospital inpatient care settings. Background. Although hospitals and clinicians in the USA have been implored to improve care and reduce events that harm patients (falls), studies to date have failed to clearly address the facility system-level factors for falls. Making meaningful approaches to modify risk factors is clearly overdue. Design. Discursive paper. Method. Possible data sources for answering patient fall-related research questions in hospital settings are categorised as: (1) archived hospital data, (2) surveys of patients/families/clinicians, (3) interviews and focus groups of patients/families/clinicians, (4) publicly available data sets and (5) published legal cases. The complexities of research in fall prevention are illustrated using the conceptual models. Examples were included to illustrate the use of these data sources. Discussion. Data-related issues include: (1) unit of analysis, (2) computer data processing capabilities, (3) merging data sets from different sources and (4) data abstraction, aggregation and data analytic techniques. Conclusions. The trend to use multiple data sources to answer research questions is gradually emerging. To demonstrate effective fall prevention efforts across hospitals, publicly available data sets can be reliable sources for analyses to inform policymakers about meaningful fall prevention programmes that result in positive outcomes. Relevance to clinical practice. Challenges to develop and evaluate any interventions to eliminate risk factors for falls often relate to selecting feasible interventions and whether staff members accept the interventions and adhere to adopting the intervention. Using multiple data sources with time factors to cross-validate the sufficiency of nurses' knowledge with their practice patterns may be more productive. This need further supports the importance of this paper about possible data sources used in the research on patient safety specific to fall reduction for adults in hospital inpatient care settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3276-3284
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011
Externally publishedYes



  • Accidental falls
  • Data collection
  • Hospitals
  • Intervention studies
  • Patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)

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