How to Choose the Best Patient Transfer Device

Patient transfer devices are assistive lifting devices which help keep both the patient and caregiver physically safe during relocation between places of rest. 

Features to consider when choosing a patient transfer device

Weight-bearing ability: strong or limited? 

The first important factor to consider is whether the person being transferred is able to bear their own body weight, and to what degree.

For patients who have good weight-bearing ability, transfer platforms are ideal.

Transfer platforms let patients pull themselves into an upright position using their upper body strength. From a standing position, they can move from one seat to another. A good example of this would be transferring from a chair to wheelchair, or from a wheelchair to a commode. 

Transfer platforms facilitate good eye contact between patient and caregiver during a transfer. This communication is crucial to ensuring the safety and comfort of the patient throughout the process.

Finally, transfer platforms make these sitting-to-sitting transfers safer and easier, and allow patients to maintain a level of control and independence during the maneuver. This type of involvement lets them exercise muscles, take deeper breaths, and engage the mind in problem-solving.

For individuals who need assistance to stand, a transfer sling can be used in conjunction with the lift platform.

A transfer sling, or hammock, ensures a safe transfer for patients with limited or no weight-bearing ability. Depending on the weight and size of the patient, two caregivers may be needed to perform the transfer. 

Sometimes an individual has good weight bearing ability, but cannot move their feet. This is often the case in people with Parkinson’s disease. For these transfers, a turntable is the answer.

By using a turntable device, caregivers are spared the strain of trying to turn a patient, and the person being transferred experiences a smoother, more comfortable and dignified transfer.

Transfer type: Sit to sit, sit to stand, or prone to prone?

Throughout the day, patients with limited mobility will require different types of transfers. There are three main types of transfers: moving a patient from one chair to another (sit to sit), moving the patient from a seated position into a standing position (sit to stand), and helping a patient move from a resting place to another resting place (prone to prone)

Sit to sit: Transfer boards are useful when transferring individuals with limited upper body strength. While sitting on the transfer board, the patient’s upper body is supported by the caregiver, who simply slides the patient from one seat to another. Without having to engage in any lifting, caregivers are spared the risk of back strain or injury. 

Swivel cushions make it easier for an individual to prepare for a seated transfer, or to become more comfortable in a seat. It is especially handy when moving a family member into or out of a car seat. While reducing friction, it provides a skid-free, stable base for turning and adjusting position easily.

Sit to stand: This type of transfer happens throughout the day, and generally involves going from a bed to a wheelchair, or wheelchair to the bathroom. Transfer belts and transfer slings are helpful with this type of transfer. Belts and slings ensure a caregiver does not lose their grip on the patient during a transfer. 

While a transfer belt is worn around the patient’s waist, a sling is worn like a pair of shorts. Shaped like an undergarment and worn over clothing, a sling supports the patient’s buttocks and midsection, providing snug stability. 

Prone to prone: This type of transfer is needed when someone cannot (or should not) sit up at all, for medical reasons or otherwise. Patients in this situation most often cannot assist in their own transfer. 

For prone transfers, a full-length transfer board allows for a smooth, safe move without any heavy lifting or strain on behalf of the caregiver. While not meant to support a person’s total weight for any length of time, transfer boards provide a safe way to bridge small gaps.

Slide sheets are an indispensable aid to achieving dignified prone transfers. They prevent shearing (painful pulling on patient’s skin), make it easy to turn a patient in bed, and allow caregivers to exert less force while still moving their patient or loved one safely and smoothly.

Lastly, for individuals who are totally dependent upon caregivers for mobility, patient lifts are often the best and safest choice. These lifts are typically found in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and may either be mobile, or suspended from an overhead track. 

Options for bariatric patients

In situations where patient weight makes it inadvisable for caregivers to attempt moving them, or where conventional transfer devices are insufficient, a wheelchair mover will move a patient safely, without strain or risk of injury to the caregiver. 

What else do I need to know about patient transfer devices?

It’s important to note that none of the transfer aids or devices discussed here are designed to support, lift, or carry a person’s entire body weight. These tools will simply reduce the exertion of transferring a patient or loved one, and will allow caregivers to move in a way that is safe for their body.

For this reason, determining the arrangement that will best suit your situation requires a realistic view of the degree of assistance your patient or family member can offer when being transferred. 

Who uses patient transfer devices? 

Having the right device to assist with daily transfers is vital whenever a person requires even minimal assistance with mobility. It’s all too easy for a caregiver to injure themselves by attempting to make even a simple transfer without the proper assistance.

Professionals who work in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers employ a range of transfer aids to meet the needs of the various patients they encounter. 

When caring for a friend or family member at home, it is even more crucial to implement transfer aids - not only for the safety and comfort of the person being cared for, but to prevent serious strain and injury resulting from daily misuse of the caregiver’s back, arm, and leg muscles. 

How would a patient transfer device benefit me or my loved one?

Imagine being unable to get out of bed, go to the bathroom, or travel anywhere within your home unless you had a caretaker or loved one to assist you. 

Once simple tasks such as getting food from the fridge or sitting down to watch a TV show are now motions you cannot perform without help.

For thousands of individuals living with partial or total limited mobility, this is a daily reality. Patient transfer devices were created to aid in the moving of a patient from one resting place to another.

This lack of independence can be frustrating, but actually being lifted and moved from one place to another can be frightening. Putting your well being into another person’s hands requires a significant amount of trust, and you would want to know you were as safe as possible. 

Transfer devices can make relocating a person simple, safe, and stress-free for both patient and caregiver. Devices such as transfer boards, lifts, and turntables can help caregivers use proper body mechanics, ensuring they do not strain or injure themselves during transfers.

Does Medicare cover patient transfer devices?

Medicare Part B covers patient lifts as durable medical equipment (DME). Other transfer aids do not appear on the list of items routinely covered by Medicare.

However, coverage may vary according to where you live. Talk with your doctor or therapist to learn if the equipment you need is likely to be covered by Medicare. 

Does private insurance cover patient transfer devices?

Coverage may be available to you, depending upon your insurance company and policy. It’s best to check with your insurance company regarding the specific transfer equipment you wish to have covered.


The careful selection of the right transfer aids can make the difference between daily struggle and a healthier, happier lifestyle for both you and the person you care for.

RehabMart is committed to providing educational information to help you make sound health care decisions for your loved ones! 


For a more in-depth look at some of the top transfer devices available, please read our review of The 5 Best Patient Transfer Devices!

Want to learn even more? Find dozens of videos featuring products and caregiver tips like these at Rehabmart’s YouTube channel!


Co-founder/CEO of Rehabmart, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, husband, and father. Passionate about connecting special needs kids with superb nutrition, sensory integration, and complementary health strategies. Excited about Rehabmart's mission to become the premier online educational platform which empowers caregivers by spotlighting innovative devices and interventions to achieve optimal patient response and recovery.

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