Explosion of DANGEROUS IT GEAR injures and CRIPPLES MEDICS
Shocking 'effects of computer use on the human body'
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. ®
Re: Homo informaticus?
Could be. I spend most of the time I'm awake in front of a computer screen of some sort. I find that it's when I try to use the "correct" posture that my back, shoulders and neck start to ache. A sort of semi-slouch, leaning slightly to each side alternately, seems to be my most comfortable position.
Would be nice to think I'm evolving into something, but I suspect it's more likely I've crippled myself from a life of sedentary jobs and dedicated laziness when it comes to exercise.
I think it's safe to say that the time I and many other of El Reg's readers spend in front of a computer is far more than the average female, young doctor. Are we all total cripples and only too anti-social to recognise it? Or was it fast lane darwinism and we already evolved into a life-form that can spend half and more of its life sitting in front of a computer without being damaged whatsoever?
Re: new shapes for computers and ways of interaction
they need to finally start delivering computers in new forms with new input devices. A computer with a keyboard and a mouse is either obsolete from a usability point of view or meant for it technicians.
It really bugs me that people comment on keyboards who are young and vigorous and ignorant of the needs of a worn and tired body. What you describe requires looking and choosing, which in itself means it cannot be done without a lot of small physiological steps. With a keyboard, one knows what and where the choices are without looking or using other stressful techniques. I think you'll find that newer setups for making input choices require movement of the arms and wrists. Likely also elevated stresses on neck and upper body muscles if the input mechanism is raised to eye level.
As a post polio sufferer, I can tell you that the newer input methods I've seen produce a lot of stress on the body. The keyboard is an extremely low friction input method for many reasons. One which is often ignored, is that it does not require the use of the eyes to see and search. Unfortunately, some people don't learn how to type without creating unnecessary stresses, which is what this article is about. It's not hard to figure out if you're sensitive to small muscles or have taken classical piano lessons. If not, drop by here and I'll give you lessons based on a lifetime of dealing with these sorts of problems. What I have learnt is applicable to healthy people as well. Yes, I understand how a healthy young person might feel no need to consider small stresses, but please take the time to think this through and perhaps even study it a little. That way you may eventually be able to help people like me, instead of making our lives miserable.