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Safe Patient Handling: There's an App for That

by Larissa Biggers, on July 06, 2018

Preventing staff injury and ensuring patient safety are paramount to healthcare system success and positive patient outcomes. But in the moment (i.e., when face-to-face with a patient who needs assistance) determining if and how to handle a patient can be challenging.

Enter the Safe Patient Handling App, which delivers Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) current best practices at the point of care. Designed for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and non-VA care teams, this app includes interactive assessment tools, as well as numerous resources.

Safe Patient Handling app Welcome screen


Safe Patient Handling App Design

The Safe Patient Handling app (v2.1) can be downloaded on an Apple or Android phone or tablet, but not a computer. That means you cannot easily print the results of an assessment or patient handling recommendations without a work around (e.g., printing screenshots).

Although the app includes two separate menus, the interface is relatively streamlined; the top-left menu provides access to assessment tools, and the menu on the top right offers links to resources as well as general information about the app. Tapping a menu item opens it. It is not immediately intuitive how to close a menu item, but it’s actually simple. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and click OK.


Assessment Tools

The left-hand menu lists four assessment tools, but only the first two are app-specific; the other menu options are actually links to external resources. The tools developed by the VA, though, are robust and well designed.

Safe Patient Handling app tool menu

Tool #1: Comprehensive Patient Assessment & Algorithms

This tool helps providers: 1) determine the mobility and independence of a patient to perform certain tasks and 2) choose the best patient handling methods and equipment for safely assisting this patient.

Users begin by choosing a type of assessment (for one task or multiple tasks). They then answer a series of questions (for example, "Is the patient greater than 300 lbs.?"). Based on the responses, the tool provides specific information:

  • Recommendations – An overview of patient handling options based upon a patient’s health and the circumstances
  • Equipment – Equipment options for the task, plus links to videos and other relevant educational material
  • Notes/hints – More recommendations for specific tasks and general patient handling
  • Flowchart diagram – A full-color, comprehensive flowchart guide for performing (or not performing) specific tasks
Tool #2: Scoring & Algorithms for Specific Tasks

This tool calculates a patient handling score (0-4) for patients, based on their mobility and the specific task they need to perform (for instance, moving from a car to a wheelchair). Based on the score, you can learn about recommended processes and equipment for that task, as described in the list above.



A highlight of the app is its vast collection of resources. While these are actually links to external sites, they are well chosen and appropriate. They include everything from a robust glossary to a bariatric resource guide to continuing education classes.

Safe Patient Handling app resources


What Happens to Your Data?

Your answers will remain in the assessments until you clear the answers. (This is one area where a print option would be optimal, as the data cannot be stored). You must clear all data before using the app with for a new patient.


Want to Learn More?

That’s easy. Not only did the VA develop a valuable app, also they created a comprehensive User Manual, as well as more succinct Quick Start Guide, which more than likely will any questions you have.


A Final Word

The Safe Patient Handling app was introduced in March 2018, and since that time, over 500 users have downloaded it. Aside from the inability to easily print and to store data, it has few shortcomings. The only question is this: given the comprehensive list of questions included in the assessments, is it feasible to use it at the point of care when a patient needs immediate assistance?

My recommendation? Download the app and try it for yourself. Even if you do not use it for every case, the tools and information it contains will be well worth it.


Topics:SPHM appVA SPHMVA Safe Patient Handling Appsafe patient handling appsafe patient handling



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