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Hospital Casters: Four Critical Challenges

Here’s a riddle many hospitals are attempting to answer. What has one wheel, is heard before it is seen, and also lowers your HCAHPS scores, causes injuries to your staff, increases your maintenance costs and makes your floors unsightly?

Your hospital casters.

Look on the bottom of your laundry carts, IV poles, mobile workstations, dietary carts and food service carts in your hospital and you’ll see cheap, commodity casters that are lowering your patient satisfaction scores and increasing your costs. Commodity casters cause many problems for hospitals. Here are the top four pains—and how to best address them.

PAIN 1: INCREASED NOISE

At the top of the list is noise, because excessive noise is the number-one complaint among patients, staff and visitors according to Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) annual surveys year after year.

Hospital casters are noisy for three primary reasons.

  1. Wrong tread material: Caster wheels made from hard materials are noisy. Hard rubber, for example, is not designed to absorb and distribute impact. This material is fine for carts that are used in noisy manufacturing environments. But it’s unsuitable for hospitals and healthcare facilities because it makes too much noise when rolling.
  2. Loose raceways: The raceway is the part of the caster that allows the caster to swivel. It typically contains ball bearings or rollers that rotate. On the majority of carts, workstations and poles used in today’s hospitals, the caster raceways are too loose, making that chattering noise so commonly associated with casters.
  3. No wheel bearings: Check your hospital equipment and you’ll likely discover that most of your caster wheels don’t have bearings at all. Instead, they feature a metal axle that grinds on the plastic core of the wheel as the wheel rotates, producing noise.

PAIN 2: WORKER INJURIES

The leading cause of workplace injuries is physical overexertion. Overexertion causes 35% of all work-related injuries and is the largest contributor to workers’ compensation costs. Back injuries alone account for nearly 20% of injuries and illnesses in the workplace. A typical back injury costs between $62,000 and $81,000 per incident.

Plenty of these workplace injuries are caused by carts that are difficult to push, pull, steer and stop. The root cause of the problem? Cheap, commodity casters that have high rolling resistance. Many casters on hospital carts do not have bearings, making them harder to move, especially when overloaded. They also commonly have standard swivel leads, which makes them harder to maneuver.

PAIN 3: COSTLY MAINTENANCE

Commodity casters, the kind found on most hospital carts, are not designed to be maintenance free. They require time-consuming, regular greasing through a zerk fitting to prevent seizing. Others have design flaws that allow debris to gather in the upper bearing and upper raceways, damaging the caster and requiring regular servicing.

PAIN 4: DAMAGED FLOORS

The final key pain that hospitals suffer from commodity casters is marked and damaged floors. Caster wheels with rubber treads can mark floors, particularly when they are left stationary in one place for extended periods and mopped around by cleaning staff.

Another problem for hospital floors is caster wheels that are too hard. Wheels made of nylon, for example, don’t mark floors, but they collect debris off the floor. This debris eventually hardens into the wheel’s tread, denting and dimpling hospital floors with every rotation.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A HOSPITAL CASTER

The cure for these top-four pains caused by commodity hospital casters is better, hospital-designed casters. If your casters are too noisy, hard to move or costly to maintain, or if they are damaging your floors, look for the following qualities in your replacement casters.

  • High-quality wheel material such as polyurethane: These wheels store and exude energy to reduce noise-causing vibrations, and deliver a smooth and quiet ride.
  • Wheels with a debris-rejecting quality: Wheels made from durable polyurethane are soft enough to be quiet but hard enough that the tread doesn’t mark floors or retain debris.
  • Long swivel lead: These make carts much easier to push, pull, turn, maneuver into place and stop.
  • Bearings: Casters with bearings are quieter, easier to maneuver and last longer.

BENEFITS OF USING BETTER HOSPITAL CASTERS

Once you replace the cheap, commodity casters on your hospital carts, mobile workstations and IV poles, you’ll start seeing some noticeable improvements throughout your facility.

For one thing, you’ll see noise levels caused by casters significantly drop. Your staff will report that your equipment is up to 50% easier to push and pull. You will see your floor maintenance costs drop as your staff start spending less time and fewer resources removing marks and repairing damaged floors. Finally, you can expect to see patient satisfaction improve, as evidenced by improved HCAHPS scores.

CONCLUSION

Your hospital can’t treat patients until your staff first diagnose their ailments. Diagnosis always precedes cure. If you’ve read this far, you now know the top-four pains that you are likely experiencing because of commodity casters in your hospital. Now you are in a position to prescribe a cure.

Incidentally, your cure can start today with a complimentary consultation with the team at Caster Connection. We take a consultative approach to solving the problems caused by inferior casters. Book your free consultation today by calling toll-free (800) 544-8978, or by dropping us a line.