The price of a typical stretcher ranges from about $2,500 to $7,000. Stretchers with a motorized drive, which can help hospital staff move stretchers carrying bariatric patients and reduce back strain for caregivers, cost about $10,000. An X-ray-compatible stretcher is at least $6,000, Lee said. Manufacturers say these stretchers are useful because staff do not have to move a patient to a separate surface for an X-ray.
Motorized stretchers have been on the market since 2005. Interest in those models, as well as the X-ray-compatible stretchers, is “driving the average cost of all stretchers up,” Lee said. The ECRI Institute is planning to evaluate whether the motorized stretchers can, in fact, reduce caregiver injuries.
“Motorized drives are the questionable feature,” said Kenneth Ross, ECRI's senior program manager in the applied solutions group. “It adds a lot of money and adds a lot of maintenance, and is not quite as easy to man as some of the vendors imply.”
Experts say a growing population of morbidly obese patients has led hospitals to purchase costlier stretchers, which make it easier to transport these patients. There are about 30 motorized stretchers in Fletcher Allen Health Care's fleet of 200 stretchers, according to Whitney Taylor, director of purchasing, contracting and value analysis for the 419-bed hospital in Burlington, Vt. The new models usually have nearly a 700-pound weight capacity.
Fletcher Allen purchases its stretchers on a sole-source contract with Stryker, based Kalamazoo, Mich., which is one of the two manufacturers that dominates the U.S. stretcher market. Hill-Rom, based in Batesville, Ind., is another player.
“We feel that these models are valuable for both staff and patient safety reasons,” Taylor said in an e-mail.
Newer stretcher models also come with alarm systems, which can alert caregivers to prevent patient falls and help the caregivers avoid back injuries from lifting patients who have fallen. Those models cost more than traditional stretchers. Other high-cost models have a fifth wheel, which can help staff navigate hospital hallways and corners.
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