Mobile and sit-to-stand patient lift designs lined up for testing in ECRI Institute’s laboratory.
ECRI Institute has recently tested and rated 21 patient lift models, focusing on issues of performance, workflow, and safety. The independent testing organization evaluated patient lifts that are intended to be moved about the healthcare facility, as well as lift systems that are fixed in place within a patient room or other area.
Patient lifts are used to support patients who are unable to bear some or all of their own weight. The devices are designed to hoist and transfer patients safely to and from beds, wheelchairs, toilets, or bathtubs and shower chairs, as well as to help patients to practice standing. Some designs can also be used to lift fallen patients from the floor.
In addition to protecting patients during the lifting and transfer process, these devices play an important role in reducing lifting-related strain injuries among healthcare workers and other caregivers. A lift that is unable to safely support the weight of patients of all sizes, or that otherwise fails during use, can lead to severe patient, staff, or bystander injury. Lifting capacity, therefore, is a key performance factor.
“We bent a few frames when we load tested patient lifts about a decade ago,” recalls Rebecca Kwasinski, ECRI Institute’s lead test engineer for the organization’s recent patient lift evaluations. “Fortunately, all the models we load tested this time around passed that part of our test protocol.” ECRI’s testing nevertheless did identify several differentiating factors among the various designs tested.
Here’s a brief overview of patient lift designs and some of the key capabilities to look for when selecting a model.
Mobile and Sit-to-Stand Designs
Many lift designs incorporate casters and are intended to be moved from location to location. ECRI Institute distinguishes between two different designs for such applications: mobile lifts and sit-to-stand lifts.
Mobile lifts can fully lift/lower a patient and do not require the patient to have any ability to physically assist. In addition to moving patients from one location to another, these models can be used to lift fallen patients from the floor, and some models can be used to ambulate patients.
Sit-to-stand lifts, by comparison, are used when a patient is able to bear some weight at least on one leg and has trunk stability to aid balance. Also referred to as active lifts or standing aids, sit-to-stand models are used to encourage patients to use/maintain their ability.
Both designs consist of a support base (including casters that enable the lift to roll), a mast, a boom (or lift arm), a lifting mechanism, and a spreader bar that supports a sling or other body support mechanism. The lifting process is typically controlled by either a corded hand control or a control panel on the patient lift.
Ceiling-mounted patient lifts follow tracks mounted to the ceiling. These fixed-in-place systems are designed to hoist and transfer patients safely to and from beds, wheelchairs, toilets, or bathtubs within the range of the ceiling tracks.
These designs consist of a track system that is mounted to the ceiling and a lifting apparatus. The lifting apparatus includes the following: a ceiling console containing the motor that does the lifting and the rollers that ride on the track, a suspension system (the lifting strap, the spreader bar, and the sling), and a hand control that regulates the lift’s movement.
In addition to being used to support patients who are unable to bear their own weight, ceiling-mounted lifts can be used to ambulate a patient, aid in rehabilitation, and lift/support limbs to promote wound treatment. They also can be used to lift fallen patients from the floor.
Some ceiling-mounted designs are specifically intended for use with bariatric patients. Whereas a standard lift can be expected to handle a weight capacity of at least 500 lbs, bariatric lifts would typically be rated to handle twice that limit.
Decisions about what type of patient lift to purchase—mobile, sit-to-stand, ceiling-mounted, or often a combination of those options—will depend on budget and the intended application. When it comes to comparing specific models, ECRI Institute’s testing revealed several differentiating factors. Following are four areas that should be considered when making patient lift purchasing decisions.
This article is adapted from four of ECRI Institute’s evaluation projects, published in the last half of 2019. The complete articles—including model-specific test results and product ratings, along with additional guidance for purchasing and patient lifts—is available to members of ECRI Institute’s SELECTplus, Health Devices System, and associated programs.
To learn more about membership, visit www.ecri.org/solutions/evaluation-and-comparison, or contact ECRI Institute by telephone at (610) 825-6000, ext. 5891, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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