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Study shows link between patient handling and musculoskeletal injuries

January 16, 2012
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patient transferThe majority of musculoskeletal injuries in a hospital setting were caused by patient handling, according to recent study reported in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The study evaluated costs for workers compensation (WC) injuries of a musculoskeletal (MS) nature in a large tertiary care hospital and an affiliated community hospital in the 13 years surrounding an institution-wide shift to a ‘minimal manual patient-lifting environment’ supported with inpatient mechanical lift equipment.

Patient-handling injuries were responsible for 72% of MS injuries and 53% of compensation costs among patient care staff. Mean costs per claim were 5 times higher for those over age 45 than those under 25 years of age. Physical and occupational therapy aides had the highest cost rates ($578/FTE) followed by nursing aides ($347/FTE) and patient transporters ($185/FTE). There was an immediate, marked decline in mean costs per claim and costs per FTE following the policy change and delivery of lift equipment.

The study's authors are: H J Lipscomb, A L Schoenfisch, D J Myers, L A Pompeii and J M Dement.

They concluded that "the observed patterns of changes in cost likely reflect the effects of activities other than use of lift equipment, including targeted efforts to close WC claims and an almost simultaneous policy that shifted cost responsibility to the budgets of managers on individual units."

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