“The best way to protect yourself (and the patient) is to make sure that
there is the proper amount of personnel available,” she says. “Hospitals
also can put guidelines in place for transporting patients and positioning.”
So why don’t more facilities create these guidelines and imple-
ment them? According to Wilson, it’s because many hospitals tend to
view patient handling as a capital investment. Rarely, he says, do they
approach patient handling as a means to avoid cost.
“When hospitals do a risk analysis and determine what it costs
them to continue to pay for injuries, by being proactive and eliminat-
ing or reducing those, it becomes cost avoidance,” says Wilson. “And
the payoff can be quite large.”
Characterizing patient handling as a capital investment is espe-
cially problematic in today’s modern healthcare landscape, where
budgets are tight and adequate funds for investment are in short
supply. Many hospitals are willing and able to purchase equipment
to help handle patients, but a significant number of them fail to take a
programmatic approach toward utilizing that equipment.
“Oftentimes, that equipment migrates to the closet and everyone’s
frustrated,” says Wilson. “The administration is frustrated because
they did spend the money, and now they aren’t seeing any results.”
No two hospitals are the same, and what works for one facility may
not necessarily work for another. But every programmatic approach
toward achieving patient handling goals involves effectively assessing
patient handling problems or opportunities within the facility and
determining how to address them before resources are deployed. This
can lead to immediate and substantial results, most notably enhanced
productivity and improved safety.
“When you look at the overall issue of ergonomics, it’s all about
enhancing human performance or productivity,” says Wilson. “When
you do that correctly, when you enhance that overall productivity and
efficiency, you’ll sometimes overcome some of those staffing issues
appropriately. Then you can have one or possibly two people moving a
patient, as opposed to four or five.”
Yet, many facilities opt to purchase equipment first and ask the
necessary questions second.
“Sadly, the vast majorities of hospitals that go down this pathway
fail,” says Wilson.
Will hospitals no longer characterize patient handling as a capital investment? Will they begin to realize a sophisticated, detailed approach
is what’s needed to achieve desired operational outcomes? Or will
many facilities continue to remain steadfast in their efforts to address
issues and chase goals by throwing money at them? Wilson isn’t so sure
the healthcare industry as a whole is adequately prepared to leverage
patient handling as a means to avoid cost, and he offers no guarantees
as to when that fact may change.
“We’re going to head in one of two ways,” he says. “And I don’t
know which way it will go.”