Here is something to add to the list of preventable injuries in healthcare settings.
The benefits of using information technology and electronic medical records to improve operational efficiencies and quality of medical care are widely acknowledged. However, there appears to be a down side for some clinic employees.
Anecdotally, increasing use of hand-held devices, tablets and laptop computers during treatment encounters is being linked to clinic staff complaints of hand, wrist, shoulder and finger pain, tingling and numbness. In wired settings, there is the added concern of trip hazards.
In an online occupational health forum, Dr. Abhijay P. Karandikar, who specializes in occupational medicine and employee health at Pines Health Services, an affiliate of Cary Medical Center, Caribou, Maine asks: “Other than desktops in each individual exam room and bigger laptops, what are some other solutions?”
- Conduct an ergonomic assessment and provide training to reduce the likelihood of injury. For example, rather than walking and standing with a tablet PC or laptop held tightly gripped at arm’s length on one side of the body for an extended period of time, encourage users to frequently shift the unit from one side to the other, keep the holding arm bent, use the hip as a “resting place” and relax their grip. When using a tablet or laptop, take steps to ensure appropriate posture and wrist position, distance, screen position and lighting.
- Eliminate trip hazards by replacing wired equipment with a wireless system.
- Build in time for short recovery/eye-rest breaks.
- Encourage staff to stretch and stay physically fit. Occupational health and rehabilitation professionals can offer advice on simple stretches to help prevent injury,
- Mount laptops on small adjustable carts. (Dr. James Bellamy, medical director at Saint Clare’s Corporate/Employee Health Services, Dover, NJ, calls this approach WOW - Web on Wheels). Some clinicians find a five-wheeled cart is more steady and maneuverable.
The cost of such preventive measures is likely to be considerably less than the cost of assessing and treating injuries and the potential for diminished performance or absence among highly valued clinic personnel.
UL, an ongoing leader in web-based solutions for safety and health professionals, empowers professionals to reduce workplace incidents and strengthen safety cultures.