Evaluation Background: Mobile Patient Lifts

August 14, 2019 | Evaluations & Guidance


Here's background for our Evaluations of mobile patient lifts, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how the technology is used, which specs are important, and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI Institute's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.

Mobile patient lifts are used to support patients who are unable to bear some or all of their own weight. They are intended to be moved from location to location utilizing casters.

Mobile patient lifts are designed to hoist and transfer patients safely to and from beds, wheelchairs, toilets, or bathtubs, as well as to help patients to practice standing/walking. These lifts can also be used to pick up fallen patients from the floor. Some patient lifts are designed for specific lifting needs, while others support a wide range of lifting scenarios. Mobile patient lifts can be used in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, and private residences.

Patient lifts enable safe lifting and transferring of weak, obese, or disabled patients with minimal physical effort. They play an important role in reducing lifting-related strain injuries among nurses. Caregivers frequently use lifts to move a patient to or from a wheelchair, toilet, or bathtub—primarily where staffing is limited or when a patient's weight or condition is such that manual lifting is not feasible.

Modern patient lifts have been around for decades, but manufacturers continue to add advanced features that may increase the versatility of the lift. Currently available patient lifts span many levels of technological sophistication, from manually controlled models, to electrically controlled ones (using battery power), to models that incorporate remote controls.

Scales are integrated into the lifts to access the patient's weight for patients who are unable to use a traditional scale. Low-base models allow for more clearance under low beds and stretchers. All controls have become powered in recent years, with more options on the control panel and handheld control. Some models offer electronically controlled patient positioning (recline/sit-up controls) in addition to the standard upward/downward movement. The base on many models is also powered to open and close the chassis. A display on the handheld control provides the user with information such as patient weight, battery status, service/maintenance information, and safety alerts. Additional safety measures have also been included in newer models. Some models include anti-collision detection for their powered base as well as the hanger bar, and load sensors to prevent the lift from lifting more than its rated load. As the demand for bariatric services has increased—a trend that is expected to continue over the next several years—so too has interest in ergonomically correct and reinforced patient lifts with larger load limits to accommodate bariatric patients.

Mobile lifts have two main lifting mechanism designs: vertical and arc. These types differ based on the manner in which they lift the patient. With an arc lift, the patient is brought increasingly near the mast of the lift while being raised to the highest position; with a vertical lift, the patient is kept at a constant distance from the mast while being lifted. Both designs are equally suited to lifting patients under a variety of circumstances. In vertical lifts, the lifting mechanism is hidden in the mast and cannot be seen or touched by the user/patient. In crane lifts, a cylindrical actuator, typically located between the boom and mast, serves as the lifting mechanism. These actuators are designed to withstand considerable vertical force. However, when lateral forces—that is, forces perpendicular to the...

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