Optimal wheelchair positioning increases resident safety and reduces costs

June 22, 2018

An estimated 3.3 million people use wheelchairs in the U.S.—and that number is growing every year. Yet many do not use or are not provided with the accessories and devices necessary to ensure their safety and prevent injuries.

In 2003, more than 100,000 wheelchair injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms; 65%-80% of those injuries were caused by tips and falls.1 Add to that the 2.5 million U.S. patients affected by pressure injuries each year, at a total annual cost to the U.S. healthcare system of between $9.1 billion and $11.6 billion.2 The Society of Actuaries has calculated the overall cost to treat an average pressure injury at $10,700.3 That can include hospitalization, nursing time for wound care and patient repositioning, wound dressing, and other products and medications.4

Prevention is cheaper than treatment

A study of how to reduce the incidence of pressure injuries among nursing home residents evaluated a 151-bed Skilled Nursing Facility over a six-year period.5 The facility trained all staff in prevention protocols and wound assessment/treatment. Prior to the study, there was a 5.19% incidence rate of pressure injuries. By the fourth year, that rate was 0.06%, a 99% reduction. Add to that an unexpected 37% reduction in falls, a monthly savings of $10,000, and an annual savings of more than $122,000.

Another consideration is the cost of lawsuits associated with injuries. A 2011 study linked data on 4,716 lawsuits brought against 1,465 nursing homes between 1998 and 2006. The most common claims, at 27%, were for falls, followed by pressure injuries at 16%. Of the total, 61% resulted in payment, averaging $199,794.6

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel is among the numerous organizations that have concluded that prevention of wheelchair injuries is cheaper than treatment. Central to prevention protocols is having the right products to ensure patient comfort, safety, and positioning.

Building a Better Wheelchair

Follow these four easy steps to build a better wheelchair that will provide both protection and comfort to your residents. First, select the right Wheelchair Cushion for each resident, to provide better pressure management and sitting tolerance. Next, enhance each wheelchair with Positioning Aids for proper alignment and posture. Add Fall Management Devices to reduce dangerous and costly falls. Then Accessorize for maximum functional independence and quality of life.

AliMed has everything you need to help prevent injuries and the subsequent costs of treating them. We offer a wide range of products in all four important categories:

  • Wheelchair Cushions—From Foam and Gel-topped to Air Cell and Individual Cell construction, as well as those made for specific needs, our cushions can address each of your resident’s individual needs, maximizing pressure distribution for both short- and long-term patient seating.
  • Positioning Aids—Head, back, lateral, arm, and leg supports can increase comfort and improve posture.
  • Fall Mangement Devices—Fall alarms, chair sensor pads, seatbelt sensors, and sensor lap and seat cushions help reduce dangerous and costly falls.
  • Accessories—Provide maximum independence and quality of life with a variety of products including lap trays, cup holders, mobile device mounts, storage bins, arm trays, wheelchair gloves, rim and spoke covers, and anti-tippers.

These cost-effective strategies can reduce injury risks, make your patients comfortable and safe, and give them the maximum mobility, independence, and quality of life they deserve.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2563507/
  2. https:www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/hospital/pressureulcertoolkit/putool1.html
  3. Society of Actuaries’ Health Section. Economic Measurement of Medical Errors. Schaumburg, IL: Society of Actuaries; 2010.
  4. Major costs associated with pressure sores. J Wound Care. 1998 Jun;7(6):286-90. Javitz HS, Ward MM, Martens L.
  5. Tippet, A.W. (2009) Reducing the incidence of pressure ulcers in nursing home residents: A prospective 6-year evaluation. Ostomy-Wound Management. 55(11):52-58
  6. Studdert, et al. 2011. Relationship between Quality of Care and Negligence Litigation in Nursing Homes. NEJM. 364 (13):1243-1250