Protect Your Well Being & Your Budget With Safe Patient Lifting

Helping lift a fallen person up off the ground puts caregivers and first responders at high risk for musculoskeletal injury. An injury to the musculoskeletal system (ligaments, joints, and muscles) from lifting a fallen person often requires a lengthy recovery. 

The direct and indirect costs associated with a musculoskeletal injury makes proper, safe patient lifts critical. OSHA has estimated that employers spend as much as $20 billion a year on the direct costs associated with musculoskeletal worker’s compensation. OSHA also found that the indirect costs from an injured worker maybe five times as much. 

The physical size and number of those at risk for falling across the country are increasing. Those responding to this growing number of falls must be ready with the right tools to protect their health and their organization’s financial future.

The IndeeLift HFL provides your organization a low cost and easy to maintain solution to this growing issue.

The Risk

Resources and support are often limited when responding to a fall. Whether the facility is understaffed, it is in the middle of the night, or the fall is in a difficult to reach spot assistance off the ground is still necessary. 

CDC researchers recommend that one should not attempt to lift someone over 35 pounds manually by themselves. This recommended weight limit of 35 pounds doesn’t include situations with less than ideal circumstances, such as lifts in a restricted space or attempting a lift during a shift greater than eight hours. 

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With this low recommended weight lifting limit and the challenging scenarios that many caregivers, first responders, and staff face it shouldn’t be surprising that healthcare workers have a high rate of overexertion injury. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (B.L.S.) discovered this increase in an alarming rate of injury across healthcare services.

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Overexertion injuries to the musculoskeletal system tend to increase as the worker’s role puts them in more challenging scenarios more frequently. Many Fire and EMS departments across the country are seeing spikes in lift assist calls, forcing them to reevaluate their response procedures and fee structures. Last month we detailed this nation wide trend here.

 The danger is real, and the risk is only projected to increase with the upcoming demographic shift. 

The Future

The number and the size of those who are at risk for a fall are increasing. 

Older adults are at a significantly higher risk of suffering a fall. The CDC found that more than one in four adults 65 and older will fall every year. The PRB projects the overall number of adults 65 and older is projected to double from 46 million to 98 million by 2060. That is forty years in the future, but this demographic swing will have an impact soon. By 2035, older Americans will outnumber children for the very first time in US history (census). 

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The likelihood of a fallen person being overweight is also steadily climbing. According the CDC, currently, 35.7% of American adults are considered overweight.By 2030, every state will be at least 44% obese, with 13 states expected to exceed 60%. 

These two trends mean more support staff and workers will be necessary to care for this growing demographic. Unfortunately, many providers are having trouble finding nurses, support staff and caregivers. 

The shortage of nurses and medical staff varies depending on the state and specialty. The American Journal of Medical Quality forecasted a shortage of registered nurses beginning in 2009 and lasting until 2030, especially in the West and South regions.

All across the country, home and facility caregivers positions are becoming more challenging to fill. With national unemployment low, the tight labor market gives many job seekers a variety of higher paying positions in a variety of industries. With the daily challenges of medical and caregiving roles, higher paying jobs in the service or retail industry are often a more comfortable choice. 

The need for effective fall prevention and response procedures and devices was necessary. However, with a historical rise in the number of older adults and overweight Americans, it is now urgent. Without a safe patient lifting initiative, providers put their organizations and their staff at high risk. 

The Cost

Musculoskeletal injuries are damaging the worker’s bodies and hurting their employers’ budgets.  

OSHA estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the United States account for over 600,000 injuries and illness. They also found that these injuries account for approximately 34% of all lost workdays. 

Musculoskeletal injuries now account for one out of every three dollars spent on worker’s compensation. With their total direct cost reaching $20 billion a year and also costing approximately five times as much in indirect expenses. 

R.Gange, a vice president at workers compensation consulting company Fit2Wrk says that “the direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg.”

What are the impacts of a musculoskeletal injury in the workplace?  

The direct costs of the injury include the cost of care and missed days of work. The sensitive musculoskeletal system requires extensive recovery time and healing. Especially in instances where an injury to their back or extremities leaves one unable to perform activities of daily living such as brushing their teeth or buttoning their clothes. 

The indirect costs of an injury to an organization can include the costs of hiring and training a replacement worker, additional overtime to cover their position, and a decrease in productivity because of lowered morale.  

With a highly skilled workforce at high risk for overexertion injuries, organization’s budgets are feeling the pressure.

Overexertion injuries to the musculoskeletal system (often to the back) accounted for greater than 1/3 of all injuries to firefighters.

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The average cost of an injured firefighter’s worker’s compensation claim was $5,168. For a firefighter with an overexertion injury to their musculoskeletal system, that average cost per clam nearly doubles to $9,715.

 It shouldn’t be surprising that medical services are a crucial part of the worker’s compensation economy. The medical service field accounts for approximately 60% of all annual worker’s compensation costs in the United States today. That number is up from 40% in the early 1980s. 

Providing healthcare and emergency services at an affordable price requires cost control. Even just slightly reducing the number of musculoskeletal injuries will have an exponential impact on the bottom line. Of course, financial reasons should not be the primary motivator for action. However every dollar saved on the recovery of a worker from a back sprain is an extra dollar for investment in higher salaries, new hires or lower service costs.

Many hospitals, first responders, and assisted living facilities have already begun making substantial investments in safe patient handling and are finding significant returns.  

The Solution

We rely on the hospital, nursing home, and ambulance workers to routinely help lift the fallen. We must make the right training and tools available at a low cost to protect this essential group. 

With a high rate of injury, changing demographics and the considerable cost of musculoskeletal injuries to workers investing in safe patient lifting strategies have a high return on investment. 

These safe patient lifting strategies may include new training, protocols, and equipment. 

The training and protocol for an EMS team may involve something similar to the decision tree from JEMS:

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Safe patient handling investments, even on a large scale, pay for themselves fast.

OSHA recently shared several cases from a few large medical facilities:

  • After an investment of $800,000 in a safe lifting program, Stanford University Medical Center saw a five-year net savings of $2.2 million. With approximately half of those savings come from reduced worker’s compensation costs. 

  • The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (a 725 bed, comprehensive care center) recovered their initial investment in safe patient handling within three years. 

  • Kaleida Health Network, the largest provider in western New York, invested $2million in a comprehensive safe patient handling program. Within three years they earned a full return on investment. After eight years, their five-hospital (70-511 beds each) network had saved $6 million in patient handling injury costs. 

OSHA’s case studies cover these larger healthcare providers. However, for smaller providers reducing the initial investment in safe patient handling strategies from hundreds to thousands of dollars will at least match these return’s performance, if not beat.  

We recommend the IndeeLift Human Floor Lift as the cornerstone of your safe patient handling strategy. 

  • The straight forward design eliminates the need for extensive training.

  • Its worry-free battery can hold 85% of its charge over six months. Meaning its ready to go when you need it.  

  • The sturdy, stable design puts fallen persons at ease before, during, and after a lift. 

The musculoskeletal risk is out there and having a dependable device to assist a team when they may be understaffed or in a crisis is priceless. 

Compared to costly permanent or pulley style lifting systems, the HFL can pay for itself by just avoiding the direct and indirect costs of one musculoskeletal injury. 

The musculoskeletal risk to caregivers, nurses and first responders will continue to grow throughout this demographic shift. Organizations will be challenged to protect their staff’s well-being and their business’ budget with increasing injury costs.

Making a low, introductory investment in safe patient handling will help your organization avoid these costs. 

Contact us today for help implementing a safe patient lift device or strategy today.

andy maddux