Dealing with overweight and obese patients is one of the most common causes of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among healthcare professionals. Archita Sivakumar Fritz of Stryker discusses the financial impact of the subsequent claims on Europe’s healthcare system and how motorised trolley designs can help hospitals overcome the challenge.

Can you briefly introduce Stryker?

Archita Sivakumar Fritz: Stryker Corporation is a leader in the global orthopaedic market and one of the world’s largest medical device companies. Our growth is based on an unparalleled variety of high-quality, innovative products and services that create cost-effective solutions and improve people’s lives. Our mission is focused on helping caregivers. We make a difference by caring for these professionals, and helping them maintain order in their organisations and restore health to their patients.

Today, the demands on healthcare professionals continue to increase: heavier, more demanding patients, longer transports and an expectation to perform with fewer hands on deck.

How do these factors affect healthcare professionals?

The facts here speak for themselves:

  • nurses lift an estimated 1.8t per shift, causing gradual wear and tear on their spines
  • more than 50% of men and women in the WHO European region are overweight, and roughly 23% of women and 20% of men are obese
  • the leading causes of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in nursing staff are patient-handling tasks such as lifting, transferring and repositioning
  • there is a 53% incidence of MSDs in nurses
  • a study on MSD-related claims in Europe identified that costs per claim can be up to €129,293.

Now consider: if absence were reduced by a third, it would have major benefits – a gain of 3.4 million working days a year, 14,9000 extra whole time equivalents and direct cost savings of £555 million.

What solutions are available to reduce these issues?

This is where Stryker comes in. Since Stryker was founded in 1941, it has been at the forefront of improving care by developing innovative, quality products. We work in partnership with caregivers to understand the environment in which a patient transport stretcher has to operate and the demands placed on them. We believe in blending products that help reduce spinal loading, and increase efficiency with caregiver education and awareness of the best ergonomic practices – an approach we call ‘BackSmart’.

Can you describe some of your research in this area?

A recent research project demonstrated, for example, that it’s possible to reduce pushing risks by considering evidence-based research principles and incorporating these into trolley design. This research compared two trolleys, one having the standard fifth-wheel design, and the other having a large fifth wheel and integral drive motor.

Twenty registered nurses – aged 24-61 – were selected; they did not disclose any history of MSDs. The tasks involved a series of manoeuvres using both trolleys: the first was pushing, cornering and stopping a trolley with a 300lb load; the second was pushing a trolley up an 8° incline. These were carried out using two flooring surfaces, smooth laminate type and carpeted tiles. The results demonstrated that the rate of perceived exertion was reduced by 42% on a motorised trolley when compared with the standard fifth-wheel trolley design.

Have the motorised designs been used in hospitals?

The motorised transport trollies are being adopted by numerous hospitals around Europe. Centre Hospitalier de Denain (CHD) in Denain, France, experienced the benefits of a motorised patient transport stretcher design. CHD was faced with the challenge of increased patient volumes in 2009, when it expanded its day surgery capabilities, requiring it to expand its patient bays from six to 20. This resulted in increased patient volumes between 2009 and 2012 from 3,500 to 7,000 patients.

By adopting the Stryker Zoom stretchers (models 1025 and 1125), CHD has been able to increase space in its day surgery area and accommodate three trolleys instead of two beds. Most importantly, it has also been able to incur savings of approximately €120,000 a year, as it does not have to hire four porters that would be required if they were to continue to use manual equipment, such as beds, to transport patients.

What does the future hold for Stryker?

The prime aim is continued progress in Stryker’s commitment to meeting customer needs. The products Stryker develops will continue to be a marriage of safe design and knowledge, ensuring it can help caregivers operate in the safest manner possible to help reduce cumulative trauma on their bodies, ultimately helping to extend their careers and improving lives.

References are available upon request.