Int J Ind Ergon. 2022 May;89. doi: 10.1016/j.ergon.2022.103290.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) remain a major concern for workers in the healthcare industry. Healthcare workers are at high risk of work-related MSDs mainly caused by overexertion from manually handling patients. Exoskeletons may be a useful tool to help reduce the risk of MSDs during patient handling. As a review study, we surveyed articles focusing on applying exoskeletons to patient handling tasks specifically. We also reviewed relevant government databases and other studies related to Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) programs and exoskeleton applications in general. The exoskeletons specifically designed for patient handling were found to be sparse. To have a better understanding of the needs and challenges of developing and using exoskeletons for reducing risks of work-related MSDs in healthcare workers during patient handling, this critical review (1) provided an overview of the existing issues and projected future burdens related to work-related MSDs during patient handling tasks, (2) recognized current and potential roles and applications of existing exoskeletons, and (3) identified challenges and needs for future exoskeleton products. In conclusion, we do not expect exoskeletons to replace the existing SPHM programs, but rather play a complementary role to these multi-pronged programs. We expect that emerging exoskeleton products can be introduced to uncontrolled or specialized healthcare environments. There are various expectations and requirements for an exoskeleton used in different healthcare settings. Additionally, introducing certain types of exoskeletons for patients to assist them during treatment and rehabilitation may help reduce the MSD risks to the healthcare workers.
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