Is your EHR hurting your nurses?

June 15, 2015 in Medical Technology

Healthcare organizations continue to face unprecedented change. Electronic health records are altering nearly every aspect of the caregiver-patient relationship – not to mention changing caregivers’ workflows with omnipresent tablets, handhelds, wall mounts and mobile carts. Today, nurses are on the front lines of this transformation. During a typical shift, they spend 35 percent of their time on documentation, or 3.5 hours of their workday entering information at a computer. Despite this, a recent survey from HIMSS Analytics found that 71 percent of nurses would not consider going back to paper-based medical records. What’s more, nurse respondents agree that EHR benefits are good for patient safety: 72 percent believe they improve patient safety and avoid medication errors and 73 percent admit they enable collaboration with other clinicians inside their organizations.

Underscoring every EHR implementation is the goal of doing business more efficiently, and the HIMSS Analytics findings demonstrate nurses’ integral role in helping hospitals achieve this. It is of equal importance that administrators understand the complete picture surrounding the complex systems nurses have to master. If the necessary equipment doesn’t fit within their workflow or is uncomfortable to work on, not only will EHR systems never reach their full potential, but they stand to cause physical strain to caregivers. This limits their ability to execute their jobs and can ultimately impact the quality of care patients receive. In order for organizations to maximize their system implementations and investments, they must evaluate their caregivers’ new workflows and embrace supportive design and devices that improves comfort while also allowing them to deliver a similar or improved level of patient care.

Importance of ergonomics

A recent Ergotron report, “How Digital Healthcare Helps and Hurts Nurses,” surveyed 250 full-time US nurses and found that 49 percent report feeling some level of discomfort while inputting charting data into a computer workstation. One of the most important factors to consider when integrating technology into nursing workflow is the ergonomics of the equipment. Ergonomics refers to the application of scientific knowledge to a workplace to improve the well-being and efficiency of workers. Access to ergonomic equipment in the workplace increases workers’ efficiency and productivity, while helping to reduce fatigue, exertion and musculoskeletal disorders – all side effects nurses can experience during a long work shifts.  Multiple studies have found that a sound ergonomics program helps reduce the number of workplace injuries and absenteeism, and can contribute to overall employee wellness.

Though technology has brought many wonderful innovations to the healthcare system, it also has the potential to introduce improper ergonomics into many clinical settings. Before EHRs, nurses could work on their charting while seated at a nursing station, giving them a break from their active work day. Now, nurses often stand with a computer on wheels when documenting. If the device does not offer standard ergonomic features – such as broad height-adjustment capabilities to adapt a unit to the correct height of the caregiver or negative tilt keyboards – repeated usage over time will add to the nurse’s physical strain.

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Article source: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/blog/your-ehr-hurting-your-nurses

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