Developing Methods of Repurposing Electronic Health Record Data for Identification of Older Adults at Risk of Unintentional Falls

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Nationally, nearly 40 percent of community-dwelling adults age 65 and older fall at least once a year, making unintentional falls the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among this age group. Addressing this public health problem in primary care offers promise. However, challenges in incorporating fall risk screening into primary care result in a problem of missed opportunities for screening, counseling, intervention, and ultimately prevention. Given these barriers, this study examines the potential for the innovative use of routinely collected electronic health record data to provide enhanced clinical decision support in busy, often resource-thin primary care environments. Using de-identified data from a sample of West Virginia primary care centers, we find that it is both feasible and worthwhile to repurpose routinely collected data for the purpose of identification of older adults at risk of falls. Searching of both free-text and semistructured data was particularly valuable.