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Spike in Computer-Related Injuries Predicted

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 10:44 AM

As more doctors and healthcare facilities adopt medical records and other digital technologies, the number of physicians, nurses, and other workers who suffer computer-related repetitive strain injuries will skyrocket, according to new research out of Cornell University.
Lead researcher Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics in Cornell's College of Human Ecology's Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, said the trend is one of the unintended downsides of the high-tech boom in medicine, which is designed to reduce errors and lower costs, and will largely stem from poor office layouts and improper use of computer devices.
"Many hospitals are investing heavily in new technology with almost no consideration for principles of ergonomics design for computer workplaces," said Hedge. "We saw a similar pattern starting in the 1980s when commercial workplaces computerized, and there was an explosion of musculoskeletal injuries for more than a decade afterward."
In a study presented at a recent meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in Boston, James said a survey of 179 physicians about repetitive strain injuries — including neck, shoulder, and upper and lower back pain — found a majority of female doctors and more than 40 percent of male physicians reported such ailments on at least a weekly basis. About 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men also reported frequent wrist injuries.
"These rates are alarming. When more than 40 percent of employees are complaining about regular problems, that's a sign something needs to be done to address it," said Hedge. "In a lot of hospitals and medical offices, workplace safety focuses on preventing slips, trips and falls and on patient handling, but the effects of computer use on the human body are neglected."
The gender differences, the authors write, appear to be in part because women reported spending about an hour longer on the computer per day than men.
A second study of 180 physicians and 63 nurse practitioners and physician assistants found more than 90 percent of healthcare workers use a desktop computer at work, spending more than five hours per day in front of the screen. Fifty-six percent of doctors and 71 percent of other healthcare workers said their computer use had increased in the past year; 22 percent of doctors reported less time in face-to-face interactions with patients.

© HealthDay

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The high-tech boom in medicine is projected to drive a big rise in computer-related repetitive strain injuries.
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 10:44 AM
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