Health Care Ergonomics is More than Comfort and Safety

Ergonomic solutions in healthcare have grown over the past several years, and recent innovations are changing the way physicians are treating patients.

It is a well-known fact that many health caregivers suffer from ailments like carpal tunnel, headaches, back pain, and other illnesses during their careers. The causes can often be blamed on equipment that places stress of certain parts of the body because of their poor design.

Work stations with ergonomic designErgonomics Can Optimize Stress Factors

When ergonomic equipment is utilized, stress factors which cause ailments in health caregivers can be greatly reduced, and the quality of care given to patients improved. For example, a physician is better able to concentrate on treating a patient rather than agonize over the discomfort he or she is experiencing.

In most circumstances, people simply do not perform their best if they are experiencing fatigue or pain. Design barriers can prohibit the productivity and quality of work they are engaged in. The applications used in the ergonomic design are meant to significantly improve performance through the design and engineering of a product.

People typically don’t perform well when they’re in pain or fatigued; likewise, they don’t perform well when there are design barriers to quality and productivity. Ergonomic applications are used to improve human performance through product and process design and engineering.

Why is There Resistance to Ergonomics in the Medical Field?

There is resistance on the part of some practitioners in the medical field to adopt ergonomic products because most practitioners tend to be quite skeptical when it comes to new solutions. They have to be convinced and sure that the new measures will not restrict their work rather than enhance it. Practitioners must see with complete assurance that any alterations using ergonomics will not only improve comfort and safety but will not interfere with the system of efficiency they have created.

Another deterrent is the process of approval for medical devices, which can often create barriers inhibiting the success of ergonomic designs. On the one hand, the FDA promotes ergonomics, but new product development and approval process take time and money. It isn’t cheap to create human-centered design technology, which often leads to it taking a backseat to more functional needs. Small changes to improve ergonomics for caregivers and patients can mean a new approval from the FDA for the changes, even after the product has been approved.

Example of Ergonomic in Motion

Computer workstations are a good example of ergonomic products needed by caregivers in health care. Ergonomic mobile workstations that allow health care professionals to take their work with them are light, can be rotated or folded when not being used and are extremely valuable assets at patient care and nursing stations. Mobile workstations eliminate the need to lug awkward and heavy computers from place to place. They immediately improve care delivery performance and space utilization, as well as make for a higher quality customer and patient relationship and experience. Although ergonomically designed workstations are expensive, purchasers must take into consideration the long-term benefits of providing workers with a well-designed unit rather than a poorly designed workspace that only triggers less productivity and prolonged sick leaves, which cost a facility much more in the long run.

Ergonomic medical equipment to handle patient lifting, aids for ambulation, manipulation and repositioning are allowing workers to avoid injury by remaining in a neutral body position while assisting a patient.

There are total body devices that are used to move completely dependent patients. Those patients who can only exert partial upper body strength benefit from stand-assist equipment and ambulation lifts are used to support walking patients. There are also shower and bathtub lifts that can transport patients from a chair or bed to the bathroom and back to bed. Ergonomic medical devices are used to move patients from flat surfaces like examining tables and include draw and slippery sheets, transfer boards, transfer slings and maps and gurneys complete with attached sideboards. To aid patient ambulation, manipulation, and repositioning, there are ergonomic stands, gait belts, lift-type ergonomic chairs, cushions, the range of motion machines, push-up bars, pivot discs, and trapeze bars.

Function and Ergonomic Design

To truly understand and implement ergonomic design and function, companies like Royal Philips Electronics use ergonomic computer hardware modules in their research to identify what ergonomic medical devices work best. Experts consider factors like patient safety and human error to determine the usability of ergonomic medical equipment. Product specialists then go on to create an ergonomically quality product, which is tested before it is sent on to the marketplace to make sure it will meet user needs.

Ergonomics Medical Applications in the Future

There are health concerns affecting employees in most medical facilities that include repetitive motion, awkward posture, lifting and more. To better address these concerns, open communication that relays information about what is good and what is bad about various manufacturer’s medical equipment has to come forward using a well designed human computer interface system, which identifies the best products available in the marketplace. With this technology, practitioners may gain the assurance they need and recognize that ergonomics will not interfere but rather improve their systems of efficiency.