BALTIMORE, MD – A new study published this week in the Mid-Atlantic Journal of Geriatric Mobility demonstrated a dramatic reduction in fall-related hospital injuries over the course of 1 year with a straightforward, low-cost intervention. Dr. Rebecca Yelinger, a Geriatrics specialist at Blessed Memorial Medical Center, led the research team.
“As health providers, we have been working against gravity for a very long time, since at least the late 1950’s. But I was at a birthday party last year when I saw these sumo suits… and it hit me: rather than keeping frail elders from falling, maybe we just need to soften their relationship with the ground,” said Yelinger.
“We have been working against gravity for a very long time, since at least the late 1950’s…” – R. Yelinger, M.D., FACP
Getting her idea off the ground, however, proved harder than she expected.
“Nurses were skeptical at first, because the sumo suit is certainly harder to put on patients than the old yellow rubber-grip falls socks, but once they realized that their elderly patients could safely wander about the building without supervision, we had tremendous buy-in.”
Yelinger says that results have been transformative.
“We haven’t had a hip fracture or traumatic head bleed since the intervention started. Patients are so mobile that they’re leaving the hospital stronger than when they arrived. Sometimes, they even leave the hospital before they’re discharged, which has been great for bringing down our lengths of stay.”
“We’ve cut down on our use of restraints, reduced our need for physical therapy, and added a lot of entertainment for patients, staff, and visitors.”
Despite her success, Dr. Yelinger says her work is far from done. She is currently designing a geriatric sumo suit that is compatible with urinary catheters and telemetry monitors. She is also working with a medical device start-up company in San Francisco to market her geriatric sumo suit, called the BioGRAVITISOFT, which will be available to hospitals next spring for around $14,000.
“It’s cheaper than a lawsuit,” explains Yelinger.
For her geriatric entrepreneurship and her tireless work to negotiate a peace between frail patients and the ground beneath their feet, Dr. Yelinger is this week’s DME Health Hero.