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HomemiequipmentThe Economics of Ergonomics

The Economics of Ergonomics

There’s plenty of state of the art equipment out there that can enhance the clinical expertise you offer your patients. Choosing wisely can also help you achieve greater workplace health, satisfaction and productivity.

Before investing in new equipment it is important to give thought to the size and layout of your consultation room, the optometrist(s) using your equipment and the profile of your patients. Dr. Jennifer Long, a Visiting Fellow at the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of New South Wales says giving due consideration to these things can make all the difference in your return on investment in your new equipment.

“Before you buy, picture the equipment in your consultation room and think about how you’ll work with it. For example, many of the new chair and stand designs incorporate features like slit lamps and equipment tables. These are all great features so you need to ensure that once they’re in place, you can take advantage of them and also have adequate space remaining to work comfortably.

“If you can’t move easily from one side of the patient to the other, you’ll be constantly reaching across patients, holding your arms outstretched for extended periods or twisting unnecessarily.”

Choose the equipment to best suit your ECP’s needs and you’ll create a safer, more comfortable and productive practice environment…

Although each of those movements doesn’t propose a problem in isolation, when performed repeatedly throughout the day, they can lead to debilitating pain.

Similarly, Dr. Long said it is important to think about where you position a desk mounted computer display.

“Desk mounted computer displays are another valuable asset in a consultation room, as long as they are carefully positioned so that you can view the screen and talk to your patient without twisting around,” she said.

Dr. Long said in practices with multiple consulting rooms using the same equipment or seeing a wide range of patients – from children through to adults – it is best to install height adjustable equipment.

“You need to be able to adjust the height of the chair according to both the practising optometrist and patient, and adjust the height of the equipment table so the optometrist can reach everything comfortably.”

In general, she said, all of the eye care professionals (ECP) using the equipment should be involved in the decision making process, and the more adjustable a piece of equipment is, the more flexible it will be to meet the ergonomic needs of each optometrist and every consultation.

Understanding the Ergonomics

Dr. Long said many companies use the words “ergonomically designed” as a selling point – but it’s important to remember that in its essence, ergonomics is about achieving a balance between the capabilities of the individual and the environment in which they’re working. “So, for example, you might have a state of the art chair, but if it’s small, and the optometrist using the chair is big, he or she will spend their day hunched over.

“In my research I’ve come across some optometrists who’ve felt the need to change their career because of the constant pain they’ve found themselves in,” said Dr. Long. “Others have cut down on the number of patients they see in a day. But those who have redesigned their room so that it can fit state of the art equipment with an ergonomic layout are able to work much more comfortably and efficiently for longer periods.”

So the message is, “Choose the equipment to best suit your ECP’s needs and you’ll create a safer, more comfortable and productive practice environment from the very beginning,” said Dr. Long.

Footnote

Dr Jennifer Long will present at a half day seminar on ‘Reducing Work-place Discomfort at the University of New South Wales on Tuesday 18 June from 12.15pm. For further information, email j.long@unsw.edu.au or phone (AUS) 0409 951 802.