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More Computer Use in Health Care ‘Pain in Neck’ for Doctors

Last Updated: December 12, 2012.

Many physicians, particularly female physicians, report upper body musculoskeletal discomfort, possibly related to time spent at a desk-mounted computer, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, held from Oct. 22 to 26 in Boston.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Many physicians, particularly female physicians, report upper body musculoskeletal discomfort, possibly related to time spent at a desk-mounted computer, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, held from Oct. 22 to 26 in Boston.

Alan Hedge, Ph.D., from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Tamara James, from Duke University in Durham, N.C., surveyed 179 physicians (93 men and 86 women) working at multiple outpatient diagnostic clinics regarding computer use patterns.

The researchers found that most physicians reported daily use of a desk-mounted computer in the clinic. More time was spent using a computer by female physicians, who were also more likely to adjust the position of the keyboard, but felt less familiar with the adjustability features of their computer furniture/equipment. Upper body musculoskeletal discomfort was reported by more than half of respondents. Female physicians more frequently experienced muscular discomfort symptoms in their neck, shoulder, upper back, and right hand, which related to duration of computer use.

"We can't assume that just because people are doctors or work in health care that they know about ergonomics," Hedge said in a statement. "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."

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