Sponsored by Stryker
By Rachel Zoch for EMS1 BrandFocus
MedStar Mobile Healthcare serves nearly 1 million residents in and around Fort Worth, Texas. The service responds to around 130,000 emergency calls per year with about 350 providers and a fleet of 63 ambulances.
Between 2013 and 2015, the agency identified a trend of strain and sprain injuries to its providers related to lifting and loading manual ambulance cots. Using a safety dashboard, they discerned that 49 cot-related injuries led to more than 10,000 hours in lost time, over $150,000 in workers’ compensation costs and even more paid out in overtime to cover the injured medics’ shifts.
Because these injuries occurred while using manual cots, MedStar leadership saw an opportunity for improvement and decided to test new, powered equipment. The agency had been using Stryker manual cots for some time, and after comparing Stryker’s powered equipment against a competitor’s during a trial period, MedStar found that its providers preferred the features of the Stryker equipment.
The agency partnered with Stryker in 2016 to introduce a full fleet of powered equipment, specifically Stryker’s Power-PRO XT cot and Power-LOAD cot fastening system, as well as the Stair-PRO stair chair.
Shaun Curtis, now support services manager for MedStar, was the agency’s risk and safety manager during the adoption of the Stryker powered system.
“Most of our injuries were being caused by lifting a patient, manipulating the stretcher, unloading the stretcher, those sorts of things,” said Curtis. “That drove a big chunk of us wanting to go to a powered system. We were able to realize pretty significant savings in most direct medical costs, but also indirect costs from light duty time and overtime to cover those positions.”
Return on investment
After the agency implemented the powered system in mid-2016, the number of lost-time hours dropped to 1,300 – a reduction of 86 percent – and they reaped a cost savings of more than $32,000 in dollars paid for cot-related provider injuries.
The financial return on investment wasn’t the only motivator for adopting powered equipment. MedStar also implemented ergonomic lifting training for all medics in 2016 to promote proper body mechanics and injury reduction for their caregivers. After a full year with the new Stryker powered equipment and the ergonomic training, MedStar went from 19 cot-related injuries in 2015 to only two in 2016, an 89 percent reduction.
“Our biggest lesson from this was there’s no all-inclusive fix. You have to take a cultural shift to really motivate big change,” said Curtis. “The piece of equipment was great, but we took a holistic look at how do we fix patient movement as a whole. This was a great tool that helped facilitate that.”
Greater caregiver satisfaction on the job
Along with a reduction in caregiver injuries and significant cost savings, MedStar has seen improvements in employee satisfaction. Curtis says the new powered equipment has boosted morale, and that one of the biggest rewards of adopting has been constant positive feedback from MedStar providers.
“We expected some positive engagement, but it was remarkable the glow of positivity that came from just adding powered equipment,” he said. “This is a real high-volume system. They’re moving patients quite a bit, and now with the equipment that facilitates a lot of that for them, at the end of the day they can go home and they’re not so exhausted. They can spend some time with their family, or enjoy their life away from work.”
Curtis also says the fact that MedStar uses powered equipment for patient transport has also provided a boost to recruiting and retention, attracting new applicants and inspiring veterans to stay with the agency.
Improved experience for patients, providers
The Stryker powered equipment also provides a more comfortable experience for the patient, he adds.
“There’s not the same fear. Working with a manual stretcher, there is some rockiness about it. It just doesn’t feel safe to the patient. They get nervous about that,” he said. “With the powered stretcher, there is a greater sense of security that this machine is holding me and it’s secure. It’s a much smoother entrance to the ambulance.”
Small design details also make a big difference, says Curtis. Providers appreciate the patient comfort wings and the cuts in the mattress to accommodate the seat belt instead of squeezing it over the mattress or the patient.
“There’s a steering block feature that nobody thought we needed until we had it on the stretcher, and now I can lock the front wheel and it drives just like a hospital stretcher,” he said. “All of a sudden the thing’s not banging me down the hallway when I’m taking it back to the ambulance.”
This attention to detail makes the Stryker powered system a critical component of the MedStar Mobile Healthcare fleet.
“All the little features that they’ve added have been awesome for us,” said Curtis.