Nurses are on the front lines of the industry’s radical transformation in EHRs (electronic health records), spending, in a typical shift, 35% of their time on documentation—that’s 3.5 hours of their workday entering information at a computer. Considering that about 30% of hospital executives report being unhappy with their current EHR system (survey by Premier), there’s a good chance that nursing executives, and the nurses who work for them, are equally unhappy.
Underlying every EHR implementation is the goal of doing business more efficiently, but so much focus is put on the availability of the systems that certain parts of the implementation and logistical concerns may not be getting the attention they deserve. If nurses have complex systems to master, have equipment that doesn’t fit within their workflow, have equipment that doesn’t properly address privacy concerns or is uncomfortable to work on, the systems will never reach their full potential.
This news comes at a time when nurses may already be feeling unsettled about nursing shortages or the fact that nursing has the third highest reported injury rate of any profession. In a recent survey of full-time nurses, 60% are concerned that their job is negatively impacting their own health. Nurses are 48% more likely to have wrist, back and ankle sprains or strains, and 53% of nurse injuries are due to overexertion. Twelve percent have been injured on the job over the course of just one year and over 50% of nurses commonly suffer from back pain and sore necks. When considering these statistics, a few things quickly become clear. Their time spent documenting should not be an additional source of exertion and musculoskeletal injuries. But it is. Forty-nine percent of nurses report feeling some level of discomfort while inputting charting data into a computer workstation.
What can be done? Fortunately, wrist and neck injuries related to time documenting are preventable. Planning and training is key. Nurses need the right support crew, in the form of adjustable and ergonomic workstations, whether mounted on the wall or in mobile formats that give nurses the power to improve their comfort during charting while also allowing them to deliver the same or an even better level of patient care.
In order to maximize your EHR implementations successfully, include evaluating current and future workflow processes and plan for the right equipment. Get input from nurses upfront, then be sure to train them on how to best use and adjust the equipment, making the act of documentation a positive experience for their bodies, wherever their shift takes them. With careful planning it’s possible for the implementation of EHR to work in your nurse’s favor rather than becoming a pain point.
When nurses feel good, it improves their quality of care. Conversely, injuries and physical discomfort directly affect patient interaction. Nurses admit feeling less friendly or engaging with patients and modifying or limiting their activity on the job if their body is hurting. Having the proper equipment is a win-win for nurse comfort and EHR implementation success.
Poor usability, time-consuming data entry and interference with face-to-face patient care are just three of the prominent sources of professional dissatisfaction with EHRs (2013 RAND report). While these factors won’t completely go away when improving computer interfaces, some challenges can be addressed to help ensure that in addition to adhering to government mandates and compliance, nurse health and safety remains a top priority.
Steve Reinecke, MT (CLS) CPHIMS
AVP of Healthcare at Ergotron