Digital Human Modelling to Evaluate the Risk of Musculoskeletal Injury for Healthcare Workers

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Background: Hospital nurses and caregivers are reported to have the highest number of workplace injuries every year, which directly leads to missed days of work, a large amount of compensation costs, and staff shortage issues in the healthcare industry. Hence, this research study provides a new technique to evaluate the risk of injuries for healthcare workers using a combination of unobtrusive wearable devices and digital human technology. The seamless integration of JACK Siemens software and the Xsens motion tracking system was used to determine awkward postures adopted for patient transfer tasks. This technique allows for continuous monitoring of the healthcare worker’s movement which can be obtained in the field.

Methods: Thirty-three participants underwent two common tasks: moving a patient manikin from a lying position to a sitting position in bed and transferring the manikin from a bed to a wheelchair. By identifying, in these daily repetitive patient-transfer tasks, potential inappropriate postures that can be conducive to excessive load on the lumbar spine, a real-time monitoring process can be devised to adjust them, accounting for the effect of fatigue. Experimental Result: From the results, we identified a significant difference in spinal forces exerted on the lower back between genders at different operational heights. Additionally, we revealed the main anthropometric variables (e.g., trunk and hip motions) that are having a large impact on potential lower back injury.

Conclusions: These results will lead to implementation of training techniques and improvements in working environment design to effectively reduce the number of healthcare workers experiencing lower back pain, which can be conducive to fewer workers leaving the healthcare industry, better patient satisfaction and reduction of healthcare costs.

Full text: Ji X, Hettiarachchige RO, Littman ALE, Piovesan D. Using Digital Human Modelling to Evaluate the Risk of Musculoskeletal Injury for Workers in the Healthcare Industry. Sensors (Basel). 2023 Mar 3;23(5):2781. doi: 10.3390/s23052781. PMID: 36904986; PMCID: PMC10007127.

Keywords: healthcare; injury; lower back pain; patient transfer; digital human modelling