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Explosion of DANGEROUS IT GEAR injures and CRIPPLES MEDICS

Shocking 'effects of computer use on the human body'

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It's not MRSA, radiation leaking from equipment nor the threat of being crushed like a paper cup beneath a tumbling obese patient which is threatening doctors at work: the fastest-rising danger to medics is computers and IT, according to a Cornell University study.

A federal cash injection of $20bn into digitising the US health industry has improved the technology used in healthcare and storing patient records. But all the new IT is set to badly harm if not cripple doctors - a finding Reg readers may take an interest in as professionals who are exposed to these frighful engines of death all the time, getting no relatively safe intervals dealing with diseased patients, surgical lasers, drugs, bone saws etc.

Alan Hedge, a professor of Human Factors and Ergonomics at Cornell, has claimed that doctors are suffering from "an explosion of musculoskeletal injuries", and has written a report to highlight his concerns.

The majority of female doctors, and more than 40 percent of male doctors, complain of neck, shoulder and upper and lower back pain on at least a weekly basis, his survey findings show. The professor cited interviews with 179 physicians held over two days. About 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men reported right wrist injuries at a similar frequency.

Neck discomfort was the worst: 80 per cent of women experienced it and more than 50 per cent of men. Doctors also complained of suffering from tennis elbow after carrying around a tablet computer.

The injuries are worse for female doctors because they tended to use the computer for an hour extra each day, Hedge said. This is possibly because they tend to be younger than their male counterparts and used technology rather than traditional methods such as dictation.

The only way to save these professionals from silicon-powered hell is to teach them to sit better, Hedge concluded, and to design offices more ergonomically:

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.

Doctors are set to use computers more and more, so the likelihood of injury will only increase unless something is done:

With so many potential negative effects for doctors and patients, it is critical that the implementation of new technology is considered from a design and ergonomics perspective.

Gender Effects on Musculoskeletal Symptoms among Physician Computer Users in Outpatient Diagnostic Clinics was published in Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 56th Annual Meeting, by Alan Hedge and Tamara James. It is available from Cornell. ®

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