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Cost Considerations

It is estimated that the direct and indirect costs associated with occupational back injuries and other MSDs nationally is between $24 billion and $64 billion annually, with $20 billion of that attributed to the health care industry, according to NIOSH. Back injuries in nursing account for the majority of these costs, with over three quarters of a million working days lost and an estimated 40,000 nurses reporting illnesses from back pain each year. OSHA has provided data to add to the business case for safe patient handling in their hospital safety web site.

Direct costs include workers’ compensation, medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation. Indirect costs, while much harder to quantify, are estimated to be four to seven times higher than direct costs. These costs include decreased employee morale, continual employee hiring and training, use of replacement workers, overtime, incident reporting and other paperwork, increased costs of workers’ compensation insurance, and increased costs of employee healthcare, particularly for employers who are self-insured.

Inadequate solutions for patient lifting and movement also result in costs to the patient, both physically and psychologically. For example, the manual lifting of patients can result in patient harm from skin tears and bruising as patients are dragged across surfaces. Lifting dependent patients under the arm to transfer them can result in injuries to their shoulders or upper arms. Falls from inadequate support during transfer or ambulation are a common problem that can be reduced by proper lifting techniques and the use of suitable equipment. Psychological distress is created when caregivers are obviously straining to move a patient who may become anxious and fearful of falling. The use of assistive patient handling equipment and devices, explaining procedures to the patient and enlisting their cooperation can reduce patient harm, increase their safety and comfort, and enhance their sense of dignity.