All manual lifting and repositioning techniques have a high-risk for injury to caregivers. Work-related back pain and injuries are a widespread epidemic and due in large part to repeated patient handling activities, including lifting, transferring, and repositioning tasks. Bed to chair and chair to toilet transfers are consistently ranked among the most physically stressful tasks required of patients and caregivers. Mechanical transfer assist devices were found to reduce the risk of injury to caregivers. Consequently, the United States (US) government passed a bill in 2006 requiring all hospitals to establish a no manual lift policy for staff members who interact directly with patients to reduce the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The most commonly used lift technologies for dependent transfers of patients include the overhead ceiling lift, the floor-based sling lift, and the Gantry lift. While these devices allow for safer transfer of patients, they do so with shortcomings. Overhead sling lifts require extensive installation that may not be suitable for homes or buildings with structural deficiencies or a low ceiling. Floor-based sling lifts have several issues with caregiver manipulation and ease of use. Gantry lifts are very difficult to move and store due to their size. Research has demonstrated that people with mobility impairments and caregivers both desire new, powered devices for safer and more comfortable and independent transfers. The AgileLife Patient Transfer and Movement System (PTS) developed and commercially deployed by Next Health LLC is an integration of several assistive technologies that together automate the transfer of immobile individuals to and from a hospital bed and a wheelchair. The PTS includes a hospital bed, an integrated and detachable wheelchair/commode chair, a docking system, and a transfer ?sheet? that moves the individual to and from the bed. However, the existing PTS has not been designed to work with a power wheelchair. The goals of this project will be to iteratively design, prototype and test a modified PTS and group 3 power wheelchair so that the PTS and power wheelchairs could be compatible, allowing it to be used by a greater number of people with physical disabilities. This will be accomplished by refining design specifications with a focus group of end user including group 3 wheelchair users and caregivers. Then developing a prototype and testing it for functionality and safety. User testing will then be conducted by having group 3 wheelchair users and caregiver pairs trial the prototype and complete usability questionnaires. A physical therapist will also rate the safety of the transfers during the user testing.

Public Health Relevance

Transfers into and out of bed for wheelchair users can be dangerous and stressful to both the wheelchair user and caregivers who are assisting them with the transfer. Several mechanical transfer devices are commercially available, but they can be very large, expensive, and difficult to use. The AgileLife Patient Transfer System is a robotic bed and custom manual wheelchair that work together to automatically transfer a person to and from a bed. The goal of this proposal is to adapt the patient transfer system and a standard power wheelchair (Group 3) with seating functions so that the patient transfer system will be able to be used by wheelchair users with more complex and severe impairments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Veterans Administration (IK1)
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Career Development Program - Panel I (RRD8)
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Veterans Health Administration
United States
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