Friday, November 30, 2012

Electronic Medical Record Use Increases Repetitive Stress Injuries

The implementation of electronic medical record technology certainly helps patients, but may end up hurting health care providers.  Many doctors and nurses report muscle and joint pain due to increased computer and tablet use after the implementation of an EMR in their clinic.  Professors at Duke University advise health care providers to stay mindful of posture and office layouts when adopting new technology.

Professors Alan Hedge and Tamara James conducted an ergonomics survey study in the clinics at Duke University Medical Center.  The questionnaire asked physicians about their musculoskeletal discomfort, computer use, knowledge of ergonomics and the level of typing skills they exercised while at work.  Out of the 179 physician responses, the majority reported experiencing pain in their neck, shoulders, thoracic and lumbar spine at least once on a weekly basis.  Weekly repetitive stress injuries and pain in the right wrist were also reported by 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men.  Hedge and James explain that the women spent an hour longer per day on the computer than their male colleagues. 

The survey results concerned the Duke researchers; repetitive stress injuries could pull doctors and nurses away from their jobs, reducing their availability to their patients.  To reverse and prevent repetitive stress injuries from the increased use of electronic medical record technology, OSHA recommends keeping the workstation monitor at or just below eye level, maintain the head and neck in line with the torso, pull elbows close to body, and use a lumbar support while sitting.  Tablet use increases to popularize as well.  Using a separate keyboard and a tablet arm can help avoid neck and shoulder strain.  

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