Manual handling is the most commonly reported trigger for injuries and accidents in the healthcare sector. According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), it accounted for 547 healthcare-related incidents in 2022. The most common cause cited was lifting & carrying. This can considerably impact healthcare resources regarding costs from claims and absenteeism. Such incidents have highlighted the importance of mechanical lift equipment for patient handling. As per Inkwood Research, the global patient mechanical handling equipment market is expected to project a CAGR of 7.92% during 2023-32 and reach $3868.48 million by 2032.
In addition, manual patient handling strains & stresses can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Interestingly, nursing has the highest potential to develop MSDs, evidenced by the highest prevalence rates. MSDs also have off-work consequences like chronic pain, job loss, and job change.
As a result, patient mechanical handling equipment is gaining relevance parallelly alongside an increased focus on patient safety. As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), using mechanical lifting equipment has proven to minimize exposure to lifting injuries by around 95%.
However, there are a set of factors associated with the use and adoption of mechanical handling equipment.
Factors Impacting & Influencing Mechanical Handling Equipment Use
As per a research article titled, ‘Implementation and Adoption of Mechanical Patient Lift Equipment in the Hospital Setting: The Importance of Organizational and Cultural Factors,’ “time” was cited as the common barrier to adopting patient mechanical handling equipment. It refers to the time taken to reach the storage area, get the equipment, bring them to the patient’s room, set them up, perform the lift and transfer, and finally return it to the storage area.
Time was also cited as a barrier even when the equipment was accessible. For instance, using friction-reducing plastic liners takes time to ‘turn and turn.’ Accordingly, the time involved in retrieving, setting up, using, and returning equipment impacted the choice of equipment.
The accessibility and availability of the lift equipment is a critical indicator of equipment usage. A study titled, ‘Factors associated with lift equipment use during patient lifts and transfers by hospital nurses and nursing care assistants: A prospective observational cohort study,’ found that the equipment is more likely to be used when it is in close proximity to the patient’s room. In this regard, ceiling lifts are the most accessible and available equipment as they are in the room around the patient bed. This is one of the key factors hospitals invest in ceiling lifts.
Similarly, slings already under the patient are more likely to be used. When the patient is moved from the bed to a chair, the sling can be left until the patient returns.
3. Nursing Staff
The aforementioned study found that the preferences and availability of the assisting nursing staff decide the use of lift equipment. Most lifts require 2 people whether the equipment is used or not. As a result, the preference of the helper can override that of the initiator. The preferences can be with regard to time, tenure of seniority of the helper, perception about the need for the equipment, and comfort with the equipment.
Moreover, the active support of the nursing management in the form of training provision, enabling access to lift coaches, and encouragement can influence the use of lifting equipment. The other nursing staff-related factor associated with patient mechanical handling equipment usage is staff shortage.
Situational factors are unique to each nursing staff member and patient. These factors may be of long or short duration and are temporary in nature. These include patient falls wherein lifting equipment is used to safely get the patient back into the bed. The aforementioned study reported five patient lift risks associated with patient falls. Of these, three were high fall risks, and two were chairfast or bedfast.
A combative or uncooperative patient is another situational barrier to the lifting equipment use. An uncooperative patient can simply refuse the use of lift equipment, whereas an aggressive or combative patient may resist all efforts to be lifted. Additionally, the latter poses a contraindication since a combative or aggressive patient might attempt to get out of the equipment and suffer injuries. However, hospitals have policies and training on handling uncooperative patients if patients (or even healthcare staff) perceive the lift equipment as a danger to the patient.
Growing Focus on Patient Safety Directly Proportionate to Mechanical Lift Equipment Use
An increased emphasis on improving patient care & safety trails the rising healthcare expenditure. This increases the demand for patient lifting equipment like slings, transfer aids, and patient lifts. In addition, the growing health expenditure necessitates infrastructure modifications and upgrades, directing technological integrations in patient lifting equipment to be accommodated into these renovations.
The other crucial factor governing patient safety is the government expenditure on aged healthcare, facilitating advantages like higher standards of care and high access to healthcare services. As a result, the increasing healthcare expenditure, followed by the growing spotlight on patient safety, boosts the global patient mechanical handling equipment market growth opportunities.
By Akhil Nair
What types of mechanical handling equipment are commonly used in healthcare settings?
In healthcare settings, a variety of mechanical handling equipment is used, including patient lifts, ceiling hoists, mobile hoists, sit-to-stand lifts, and slide sheets.
What role does innovation play in this market?
Innovation is a crucial factor in the evolution of the patient mechanical handling equipment market. Manufacturers are constantly developing new technologies, such as powered patient lifts, ergonomic designs, and integration with electronic health records.