Objectives The aims of this study were: (1) to evaluate the effect of manually lifting patients on the occurrence of low back pain (LBP) among nurses, and (2) to estimate the impact of lifting device use on the prevention of LBP and musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injury claims. Methods A literature search of PubMed, Embase and Web of Science identified studies with a quantitative assessment of the effect of manually lifting patients on LBP occurrence and studies on the impact of introducing lifting devices on LBP and MSD injury claims. A Markov decision analysis model was constructed for a health impact assessment of patient lifting device use in healthcare settings. Results The best scenario, based on observational and experimental studies, showed a maximum reduction in LBP prevalence from 41.9% to 40.5% and in MSD injury claims from 5.8 to 5.6 per 100 work-years. Complete elimination of manually lifting patients would reduce the LBP prevalence to 31.4% and MSD injury claims to 4.3 per 100 work-years. These results were sensitive to the strengths of the association between manually patient lifting and LBP as well as the prevalence of manual lifting of patients. A realistic variant of the baseline scenario requires well over 25 000 healthcare workers to demonstrate effectiveness. Conclusions This study indicates that good implementation of lifting devices is required to noticeably reduce LBP and injury claims. This health impact assessment may guide intervention studies as well as implementation of programmes to reduce manual lifting of patients in healthcare settings.