White Paper

The Healthcare Workstation: What's Ergonomics Got To Do With It?

Source: Rubbermaid Medical Solutions

In the healthcare setting, the right workstations, whether for mobile computers or wall-mounted displays, ergonomics are the cornerstone of safe, efficient patient care.

Ergonomics, also sometimes known as "biotechnology," is an applied science concerned with designing equipment with the goal of maximizing both efficiency and safety. Put simply, ergonomics is about making things comfortable to use and reducing physical stress. Nowhere is ergonomics more important than in the field of medicine, where poorly designed equipment has the potential to harm instead of heal. With computers being an integral part of the modern medical landscape, it is vital that their use be as ergonomic and their implementation as seamless as possible. The ergonomics of a workstation can have a very real impact on patient care, medical staff satisfaction, and the healthcare provider's bottom line.

Feature Checklists: Only Half the Equation
Unfortunately, ensuring a forward-thinking approach to ergonomics in healthcare requires more than just an inventory of design elements. Just as important as functionality is the concept of usability. A laundry list of ergonomic features is of no value if those features are not convenient or if they are poorly implemented; invariably, they will not be used.

Many healthcare organizations, for example, believe they are acting in the best interests of their employees by purchasing the lightest mobile computer cart possible. This can be shortsighted, however, as a cart's overall weight is only one factor in ergonomic quality. In some instances, a heavier cart designed with quality casters takes less force to move than a lighter cart with inferior caster design. Furthermore, some lightweight carts compromise the potential efficiency afforded by larger batteries that ensure longer run times.

Healthcare organizations face similar decisions regarding wall-mounted computing solutions. Height, tilt, and many other adjustments are available on wall arms, but their controls must be placed intuitively. Staff may simply not bother to use a wall-mounted computer if they need stretch behind the monitor to adjust its height, making it too difficult or inconvenient to use. The ideal solution—whether mobile or fixed—is one that balances the need for functional space with easy maneuverability and intuitive controls.

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