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Sharp spike in computer-related injuries predicted for medical workers, find studies
Date:12/4/2012

ITHACA, N.Y. As U.S. health care goes high tech, spurred by $20 billion in federal stimulus incentives, the widespread adoption of electronic medical records and related digital technologies is predicted to reduce errors and lower costs but it is also likely to significantly boost musculoskeletal injuries among doctors and nurses, concludes a Cornell University ergonomics professor in two new papers.

The repetitive strain injuries, he said, will 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 Alan Hedge, professor of human factors and ergonomics in Cornell's College of Human Ecology's Department of Design and Environmental Analysis. "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."

For a paper published in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 56th Annual Meeting, held Oct. 22-26 in Boston, Hedge and James asked 179 physicians about the frequency and severity of their musculoskeletal discomfort, computer use in their clinic, knowledge of ergonomics and typing skills. The most commonly reported repetitive strain injuries were neck, shoulder and upper and lower back pain -- with a majority of female doctors and more than 40 percent of male doctors reporting such ailments on at least a weekly basis. About 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men reported right wrist injuries at a similar frequency. (Study: https://cornell.box.com/Hedge).

"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
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Contact: Syl Kacapyr
vpk6@cornell.edu
607-255-7701
Cornell University
Source:Eurekalert

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