Safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) protocols are important elements of patient and caregiver safety programs. To that end, we recently supported a summit of clinical thought leaders in this critical area — gathering their input to discern what’s next for the healthcare industry. The group discussed:

  • Innovative practices gaining adoption in healthcare today
  • Gaps in knowledge, practice and equipment
  • Opportunities to drive evidence generation and SPHM adoption

The event was led by clinicians, for clinicians, and it was chaired by Nancy McGann,  P.T., CSPHP, CPPS, Leader of Safe Patient Handling, Mobility and Fall Prevention at Intermountain Health in Broomfield, CO. Baxter sponsored the event, and our own Medical Science Liaison, Robert Williamson, MS, RN, BSN, CSPHP, CPPS, helped organize it. Afterwards, Williamson sat down with us to share his observations on the summit — and the insights he gained into the future of SPHM practices.

Prioritizing the Many Opportunities for Safe Patient Handling & Mobility

Before the event, participants were asked to provide insights into their top SPHM short- and long-term initiatives, along with barriers those initiatives face today. The diversity of responses reflected the diverse roles and focuses of the participants, and they included:

Impact to At-Risk Populations

  • Relationship between SPHM and prevention of hospital-acquired pressure injuries
  • Meeting the needs of patients of size
  • Fall prevention as it relates to mobility

Defining Measures of Success

  • Augment currently used lagging indicators
  • Establish common metric(s) by which to measure impact of SPHM interventions
  • Establish universal method to demonstrate SPHM program ROI

Gaps in Technology

  • Connectivity with the EMR and other biometric data points
  • Validation of use
  • Enhancing sling technology
  • Creation of a gap analysis process to determine equipment types, numbers and locations
 A group of safe patient handling & mobility clinical experts discusses current challenges and opportunities

“The breadth of insights we received was a refreshing surprise at the time — but in hindsight, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise,” comments Williamson. “These professionals come from varying clinical backgrounds across the US and Canada, working in organizations of differing sizes and complexity. Their insights were wonderfully well rounded.”

Key Takeaways

As the group discussed each of these areas, certain topics with the broadest impact naturally came to the forefront. By the conclusion of the session, two key areas had been identified as top priorities for further research:


Benchmarking is a common practice in healthcare, helping organizations track their success against other similar organizations across the country and around the world. However, the group noted a general lack of this type of measurement when it comes to safe patient handling & mobility.

“There is strong interest across the group in benchmarking for SPHM programs,” says Williamson. “That could include things like occupational injuries, pressure injuries, falls and many other related areas. The request is for a consistent way clinical teams can measure the effectiveness of their SPHM programs with a universal benchmarking system.”

Accessibility for Patients of Size

Accessibility was also an important topic for participants. One participant from a cancer center, for example, noted how often patients of size (often women in particular) come in for oncology treatment after foregoing routine evaluations because they anticipate a negative experience — in more ways than one.

“Participants noted that patients of size often feel unwelcome in clinical environments, and this can create equity issues,” explains Williamson. “Lack of bariatric equipment plays a part, yes, but it’s more than that. So here, too, we need to dive into the research and ask questions like: What training and/or practices could make a difference for these patients — including areas like communication? What are the applicable laws and regulations? Where is this being done well, and how can we build on that? These are the types of important issues we will set out to understand.”

Nancy McGann, P.T., CSPHP, CPPS, leads group discussions on safe patient handling & mobility

Next Steps: The Research Begins

Organizers will conduct literature reviews to dig deeper into both areas, investigating research and knowledge available today, and what may be needed in the future. One thing is certain: there is no shortage of opportunities for today’s SPHM clinical professionals to make an impact on delivering patient care — safely and efficiently.

Will You Join Us?

We’re proud to support educational summits like this one, where clinical thought leaders come together to share their experiences and expertise — and help shape the future of safe patient handling & mobility. Would you like to join us? Sign up for invitations to future events today.