Why Ergonomics and EHRs Make for Happier Practitioners and Patients

SteveReineckeErgonomics and Patientricity

By Steve Reinecke, CLS/MT, CPHIMS, AVP Ergotron Healthcare
Twitter: @ergosteve
Ergotron Healthcare: @ErgoHIT

Today, healthcare organizations are being challenged to provide quality care while improving accuracy, efficiency and accountability. With the additional strain of staff reductions, space constraints, budget cuts and technological advancements all competing with new regulations, there is almost a perfect storm of workflow changes for clinicians to address and adopt. While most focus on the immediate challenges of electronic health records, they may not think through all the implications when implementing the technology used to access it.

Amid the widespread adoption of EHRs, caregivers are equipped with a multitude of devices to access electronic reports – including tablets, handhelds, wall mounts and mobile carts. Furthermore, the logistics governing electrical, phone, and network cabling, not to mention physical “real estate,” can stretch the ability to cope for some facilities. It’s not surprising to find cutting-edge IT equipment being used in cramped, stuffy rooms with inadequate furniture, mounting surfaces and storage. At the recent HIMSS conference, we presented to dozens of clinicians and explored how the enterprise-wide application of ergonomic principles within a hospital setting can help manage and sustain all of the often overlooked aspects of clinical workflow.

Ergonomic Factors

Ergonomics is the application of scientific knowledge to a workplace to improve the well-being and efficiency of workers. Ergonomic design considerations begin with human abilities and limitations and how they affect the work process. An ergonomic workplace increases workers’ efficiency and productivity, while helping to reduce fatigue, exertion, and musculoskeletal disorders. Studies have shown that a good ergonomics program also favorably influences reduction of workplace injuries and absenteeism, and contributes to overall employee wellness. Ergonomic efforts should educate employees on how their behavior and lifestyle contribute to their wellness; provide ergonomic computer support equipment and the proper environment; train employees to safely use the computer and support equipment; and provide ongoing monitoring and metering of employees to account for changes that may affect their well-being.

Addressing Triangle of Care – Patientricity

Effectively integrating technology into all aspects of the healthcare environment without compromising the patient experience requires an effective positioning all the players—the patient, the caregiver and the technology, into a more favorable alignment, a Triangle of Care, or what we call Patientricity.

Creating a patient-centered environment inclusive of technology, must be done with sensitivity to the needs of the patient and medical staff alike, whether documenting at the bedside or reviewing radiology reports in the lab. Done right, it promotes increased interaction, satisfaction, safety and efficiency into the patient-caregiver exchange. The patient receives the benefit of the face-to-face connection with the caregiver, while the technology becomes a partner to the exchange.

Achieving this balance involves a combination of computer technology and display mounting and mobility solutions properly placed at the point of care. We recommend exploring these factors:

  • Avoiding inappropriate or cumbersome placement of technology that impedes the efficiency of care.
  • Considering adjustable options that allow caregivers to sit or stand while accessing or inputting data to offer a new level of work flexibility.
  • Not skimping on key ergonomic considerations in terms of helping users achieve proper computing postures, and adjustability when manipulating the equipment.
  • Evaluating and understanding the human interaction that needs to take place within the digital workflow.
  • Understanding space constraints to determine whether fixed, permanent and dedicated equipment is required, or whether a mobile solution best serves the care-giving requirements.

There are many benefits to exploring both ergonomics and patientricity including having more satisfied employees and patients as well as increased access to technology, and long-term cost reductions and decreased injuries due to poor ergonomics.

About the author:  A medical technology and information systems veteran, Steve Reinecke brings over 20 years of experience to his current role as Assistant Vice President of Ergotron Healthcare, where he leads a North American Healthcare Team. As one of the premier experts in healthcare IT point-of-care technologies worldwide, Steve travels year-round to educate organizations on issues around implementing point-of-care. Early in his healthcare tenure, Steve spearheaded efforts to implement one of the first wireless cart-based point-of-care projects in North America. In 2008, Steve earned the designation of Certified Professional In Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS).