Fostering wellbeing in our shared digital future should be tantamount to the success of hospitals, suggests Bob Hill, Healthcare Industry Manager at Ergotron.


Healthcare environments are geared to deliver patient care, and digital technology is racing ahead to improve every aspect of assessment, treatment and recovery. While technology has helped healthcare to move ahead leaps and bounds, it has also caused friction from an ergonomics point of view. Digitalisation has undoubtedly revolutionised the healthcare industry, but as technology is leaping forward, hospital architecture and facility design has mostly stayed the same.

Many facilities were built decades before the advent of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and were not designed to accommodate high-tech, digital solutions and products like patient e-tablets or configurable medical carts. These technologies, when not effectively integrated in a hospital design with a focus on ergonomics, can negatively impact the patient experience, clinician safety and, ultimately, the facility’s effectiveness.

“Existing healthcare facilities were designed to optimise clinician workflow without technology in mind, so wards and patient

rooms are often too small or busy to accommodate the medical equipment that is considered necessary today.”

Today, many clinicians struggle to adapt their already crowded environments in a way that’s convenient and comfortable, and much less ergonomic. Twenty- first century technology, from smart devices and documentation carts to medication delivery stations vie for space and attention. Even the most efficient workflows can be hampered by the multiple challenges facing healthcare workers today, changing priorities and the arrival of new technology.

In many healthcare settings, poorly designed equipment – essential to the delivery of patient care - brings with it the potential to harm those who heal. In an era of preventative medicine, when doctors and nurses are more comfortable in their physical space, they can do their job more efficiently, communicate with each other more easily and complete tasks with fewer difficulties. If ever there was a win-win for healthcare professionals and their patients, this has to be among them.

Barriers to efficient facility design Yet, a variety of barriers stand in the way of progress.


An Ergotron survey with HIMSS Analytics in the US, ‘Finding the Disconnect: A Communication Breakdown in Healthcare IT’, underlines the risks and opportunities. From the clinician’s point of view, the equipment they use to administer care regularly causes physical discomfort. More than half (56%) complain at least once per month and more than one-third (36%) complain once per week about the issue, according to the survey data.

It’s clear that leaders and staff at various points in the care process understand the need to upgrade existing facilities to align with today’s digital solutions, and to alleviate discomfort caused by workplace equipment. Yet, as might be expected, the research revealed that different stakeholders voice varying priorities. Leaders focus on the budget and performance, whilst IT professionals prefer the latest and greatest technology, and point-of- care professionals think about their daily routine and how infrastructure impacts the patient experience.

When asked to rank the factors influencing technology equipment decisions, overall results in the same survey showed budget is ranked highest, while equipment ergonomics is ranked lowest. While ergonomics may not rise to the top when considering elements to prioritise, it has been shown to improve efficiency – a well-known pain point with EHR adoption. Incorporating ergonomics into the equation while aligning priorities across stakeholders helps ensure a holistic perspective that supports the organisation’s overall success.

From the care perspective, mobile carts and wall workstations work to improve patient interaction, but today's healthcare facilities are still are not fully designed to accommodate them, and health professionals are not always adequately trained on how to best use them. Existing healthcare facilities were designed to optimise clinician workflow without technology in mind, so wards and patient rooms are often too small or busy to accommodate the medical equipment that is considered necessary today.

The physical environment around a patient must be optimal in order to provide proper care and ensure the safety of both the patient and the clinician, and therefore cannot be diminished. In order to streamline the process and ensure success from the beginning, IT professionals must have a holistic view of technology through integration.

This means that as hospitals continue to implement new healthcare solutions, healthcare space planners, IT decision makers, clinicians and facility leadership need to consider the broader organisation’s goals. The challenge is to improve patient experience, ensure clinician satisfaction and focus on meeting standards and targets when the pressure on healthcare provision is growing all the time.

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