What Does it Cost to Move a Patient?

What Does it Cost to Move a Patient?

Safe Patient Handling Saves Big Money
By Nick Dmitrovich

Moving a patient in a hospital or clinic can become much more costly than most people realize.

Of course, there’s the upfront liability aspect to consider, with regard to the safety and health of the patient. No one wants to create unnecessary injuries, or risk potential lawsuits – that part is obvious.

The underlying costs, however, don’t stand out quite as blatantly. Moments of patient transport around a medical facility actually pose a significantly high risk to caregivers, and are one of the leading causes of medical workplace injuries. Combine that with the fact that the medical industry already experiences a much higher overall incidence rate for injuries in the first place, it becomes clear to understand why workers compensation experts have become quite focused on developing safe patient handling programs in recent years.

Just take a look at these figures, published by OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which highlight the risks posed to caregivers as they perform instances of patient logistics:

  • Workers in hospitals suffer injuries and illnesses at nearly twice the national average rate. Hospitals had an incidence rate of 6.8 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers in 2011, compared with 3.5 per 100 in all U.S. industries combined.
  • The incidence rate for injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work, measured across all industries and occupations nationwide, was 1.2 per 100 full-time workers in 2011. The incidence rate for these injuries among nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants across the healthcare industry was nearly four times that, at 4.4 per 100 full-time workers.
  • Nearly 50 percent of the reported injuries and illnesses among nurses and nursing support staff in 2011 were musculoskeletal disorders. Nursing assistants suffered more of these disorders in 2011 than any other occupation, while registered nurses ranked fifth.
  • Patient handling injuries accounts for about 25 percent of all workers compensation claims for the healthcare industry.

  • On average, a workers’ compensation claim related to patient handling cost $15,600, and wage replacement accounted for the largest share of this cost ($12,000). In terms of wage replacement, patient handling injuries are among the most expensive type of hospital worker injuries.

“In addition to these direct and highly visible costs, there are numerous indirect and less visible costs from patient handling injuries—difficult to measure, but with a very real impact on a hospital’s finances and resources,” OSHA reported. “These include employee turnover, training, overtime, incident investigation time, productivity, and morale. Patient safety, satisfaction, and recovery times may also be affected if workers are injured during patient handling and repositioning.”

“These indirect costs can increase the total cost of patient handling injuries by two to four times. For example, a number of studies have tried to estimate the cost of replacing a nurse who leaves the profession. These studies place those costs in the range of $27,000 to $103,000 per nurse.”

The administration strongly recommended that hospitals invest in the proper equipment and training for appropriately moving patients, and went on to say that the return on investment greatly outweighs the initial costs. Such procedures and equipment can include: permanent or portable lifts, transfer sheets and other equipment, training on equipment use and maintenance, implementation of a “minimal lift” policy that eliminates manual handling whenever possible, and/or a dedicated “lift team” that travels through the hospital moving patients with proper equipment.

OSHA’s Safe Patient Handling report cited dozens of instances where hospitals were able to generate tremendous workers comp savings by implementing their own programs, but one figure stood out way beyond the others. When one chronic care hospital in Canada implemented a zero-lift program, it was able to decrease its workers compensation costs associated with patient transfer by 99.8 percent. That’s a truly impressive margin.

Hospitals around the state of Indiana could produce tremendous savings within their workers comp budgets by zeroing in on their logistical approach to moving patients, in addition to the increases they could make in patient safety. It’s a cost-effective measure that has the very real potential to help avoid serious problems down the line, and it contributes directly to every hospital’s mission – keeping people healthy.

(Click here for OSHA’s full report: OSHAs Safe Patient Handling report)


Research on the Impact of Musculoskeletal Injuries among Nurses:

  • 52 percent complain of chronic back pain
  • 12 percent of nurses “leaving for good” because of back pain as main contributory factor
  • 20% transferred to a different unit, position, or employment because of lower back pain, 12 percent considering leaving profession
  • 38 percent suffered occupational-related back pain severe enough to require leave from work
  • 6 percent, 8 percent, and 11 percent of RNs reported even changing jobs for neck, shoulder and back problems, respectively.

Source: American Nurses Association

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