Don’t Let Bad Ergonomics Distract from Providing Great Care

October 26, 2018 in Ergonomics

Ergonomics 03

We recently partnered with a San Francisco hospital to install GCX wall mounts for their electronic medical records. As part of the process, staff provided us a lengthy list of questions to ensure our mounts met their ergonomics standards.

Hospital officials take ergonomics seriously, and for good reason. The potential cost of repetitive stress injuries among clinicians– and subsequent lost productivity – is a major concern. Additionally, patients need convenient and safe access to portable devices, such as tablets, during a hospitalization.

One size does not fit all

Ergonomics is a prime consideration in all GCX designs and product lines and has been for decades. Our entire customer base is, and always has been, medical communities; therefore, our products are designed specifically for healthcare settings. As such, we’ve witnessed the changes in physical spaces and workflows that make ergonomics more important than ever.

Most medical manufacturers are familiar with Dreyfuss’s Measure of Man and Woman charts that show a range of body dimensions, such as a 95th percentile tall man vs. a 5th percentile short woman. From those charts, product designers and engineers calculate the optimal keyboard and screen height for a computer workstation and a theoretical height adjustment range to cover the user population.

But what happens when that theory meets the practical reality of a hospital room?

‘Adjusting’ to today’s hospital rooms

In a typical patient room, you may expect to have a dozen different users daily, each using the workstation for a short amount of time, sitting or standing. They most likely won’t spend more than a couple seconds adjusting the workstation to fit them. In this case, we recommend that a hospital focus its users on making a single, quick height adjustment of the workstation.

Conversely, the space between a user’s eye level to their ideal keyboard height varies only a few inches across a population – yet it is important to achieve a neutral wrist angle to help prevent injuries. Rather than make a workstation adjustment for this spacing, a facility may be better off keeping it simple and fixing this dimension for an average population. Otherwise users at height extremes will likely adjust equipment optimally for nobody but them. (Note that in an office environment with a single workstation dedicated to a single user, and longer duration use, there is a bigger payoff for optimizing multiple fine dimensional details of a workstation.)

Positioning users for optimal interactions

Furniture and typical use positions matter as well. Say a workstation must accommodate a “seated” user. Those human-factor charts will specify a theoretical office chair height and base workstation dimensions. But in the OR, an anesthesiologist typically sits at a slightly higher stool that allows her to look down on the OR table and see the patient’s head. In an ED or exam room, a doctor may sit down on a short rolling stool that’s below the height of a typical office chair. This is where ergonomists can add a lot of value in a hospital.

This also is where companies like GCX excel. Our product development team understands the role ergonomics now plays, and our expanding product lines anticipate both today’s and tomorrow’s healthcare ergonomics.

We go into hospital rooms and interact with clinicians and ergonomists so that we are sure we provide the best solution to keep users safe and productive. We understand that ergonomics is a dynamic, not static, requirement – and one we will continually meet.