EHR use associated with upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms

April 29, 2010

Physicians who practice at facilities at which electronic health record systems are used have a high prevalence of computer-associated upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms, according to research recently published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Physicians who practice at facilities at which electronic health record (EHR) systems are used have a high prevalence of computer-associated upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms (UEMSs), according to research recently published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The investigators administered a 20-minute cross-sectional survey in primary care clinics at two academically affiliated centers in San Diego; both use EHR systems that require extensive keyboard and/or computer mouse use. Fifty-seven physicians completed the survey.

Forty-eight percent of participants reported moderate to severe UEMSs attributable to computer use. Those whose scores were higher on a visual analog scale used by the researchers reported more EHR sessions and more hours of computer use per week compared with other respondents. Sex, age, body mass index, employer, and years of EHR use had no significant effect on physicians' scores.

The authors said they believe that their study is the first to examine UEMSs and physician EHR use, and that their results echo those of non-physician computer users. They noted that UEMSs are associated with the longest absence from work among service-sector workplace injuries and often can result in multiple episodes of lost work time.

Future studies could determine whether modification of EHR systems to minimize computer mouse use would result in fewer UEMSs, said the researchers.