Attention to proper ergonomics can reduce risk of injuries within a healthcare set up

Swapneel Nagarkar, Senior VP – Marketing & Sales (B2B), Godrej Interio speaks to Raelene Kambli on how ergonomics in healthcare can help in achieving significant positive results such as improving productivity within hospitals and creating better healing environments for patients

How can ergonomics be applied in a healthcare set up?

201604ehm20In an healthcare set-up there are two broad categories – healthcare providers and patients. Healthcare providers often face the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), caused largely due to overexertion and straining of muscles during patient handling activities. As far as the patients are concerned if they are not handled properly by caregivers, then the patients will also be prone to the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in the long run. What starts off as a simple pain, tingling or stiffness could lead to a serious medical condition. When the patient is being moved in the hospital, for instance while he/she is being lifted from his bed and put on a stretcher taking him to the operating theatre, if that movement is not done smoothly then the patient could develop some other issues, typically an orthopaedic issue at a later date. Careful attention to proper ergonomics can reduce the risk of injuries within an healthcare set up through increased staff effectiveness, productivity, improved patient safety and overall healthcare quality.

How does it help to increase productivity among healthcare workers?

Productivity is linked to physical well being of a caregiver and I believe that this can be guided by ergonomics. By definition, the word ergonomics means interaction between the user, that is, the employee and the workspace. Now, if we’re able to train healthcare providers in the area of ergonomics, then they can be guided about the right postures to take, the right kinds of body movement to be done when they are engaged in the different activities of their job etc. Some of the healthcare givers’ roles may be very indirect – like the purchase department or administration department in the hospital. But even these people, by virtue of their work profile, can be be trained in ergonomics for the right sitting postures or the right angles to place their laptops or computers from an office set-up point of view. Ergonomics helps reduce injuries and occupational hazards while concentrating on how to create the right balance between the user (employee) and his elements of space (workspace). The healthcare givers who are directly in touch with patients need to be trained differently in terms of how to move the trolley, how to handle different medical equipment thereby making caregiving more ergonomical.

If the caregiver is comfortable at work then absenteeism and frequent breaks go down. Simply put, reducing unnecessary or awkward postures and exertions reduces the time it takes to complete a given task, thus improving productivity. Any healthcare set up which is sensitive to ergonomics will surely provide better care.

Any available stats on the same?

It has been documented by various researchers that in organisations which do-not have a structured/ planned employee health and productivity improvement plan in place, especially in terms of ergonomics, there is an adverse impact on employee health.

The latest research done by our Ergonomic Cell suggests that ~71 per cent of employees are affected by MSDs in offices today. It reveals that currently seven out of 10 people in today’s highly computerised workspaces/ job profiles complain of such health issues. While these begin as small irritating niggles, ignoring them results in chronic problems called MSDs.

How will this concept provide better healing environment to patients?

If you take the journey of the patient, from the time he enters hospital to the time he leaves it, he is subject to a host of movements. If he is in a bad condition he will be brought in on a stretcher or a trolley and if he’s in a reasonably good condition he may come walking. In either of the scenarios, if the healthcare facility becomes sensitive to ergonomics then the complete movement of the patient will happen ergonomically. In the case of patients who are in a position to sit and move by themselves, the kind of furniture that will be provided will be ergonomically correct so that they don’t end up straining their backs. In turn, the entire experience of the patient will be such that his physical body will not face any discomfort, apart from the ailment he is suffering from unfortunately. Thus the overall environment becomes more healing for him.

How many hospitals in India have started applying ergonomics in their facilities?

We have been connecting with hospitals for more than a year with this particular initiative. Our experience has been that very few hospitals are actually practising ergonomics in their facilities. In terms of a specific number, it would be wrong on my part to comment because we haven’t surveyed all the hospitals in the country. But, we have connected with about 60 to 70 hospitals in the last one year and spoken to them about the programmes we undertake related to ergonomics and wellness. The response has been excellent. Most of them were honest enough to share that they have not been taking up these kinds of activities in a structured manner. We know of a few hospitals, maybe four or five hospitals in the country, that have started independently taking actions to make their hospitals ergonomically better.  However, when we contacted those approximately 60 hospitals, the response has been overwhelming. Even in the course of the last six to eight months we have conducted about six to eight wellness camps in these hospitals.

Is Godrej researching on the concept of ergonomic and its uses in healthcare delivery? If yes, please give us more details on this?

Yes! Godrej Interio Proposes solution fit to both (patient & caregiver) including ergonomically designed equipment, ergonomic training to caregiver and work practices to ensure soothing patient experience. Godrej Interio is closely associated with ergonomics through its Wellness@Work Initiative. We are the pioneers in this space and amongst the very few companies in India who is driving awareness, correction and prevention of occupational hazards since 2009 in office industry and 2014 in healthcare industry. We formed Ergonomics and workspace research cell in 2009 which caters to this space.

It has been documented by various researchers that organisations do-not have a structured/ planned employee health and productivity improvement plans in place and specially related to ergonomics and its impact on employee health.

Our objective is to cater and partner with — various organisations and reduces ergonomic hazards at workplaces & helps improve productivity, employee wellbeing and patient care in Healthcare Industry through its Awareness & ACP (Assessment Correction & Prevention) Approach.

We have already covered 10 hospitals under this program in this year and plan to increase our coverage in the coming year. Plans are to cover at least 5-6 hospitals with wellness programs every month in the coming months.

What is Godrej’s strategy towards engaging more hospitals in applying ergonomics within their hospital set-ups? how will you execute this?

We are following a three pronged approach:

1st level: Creating awareness about improving employee health and productivity through ergonomics awareness workshops
2nd level: Conducting ergonomic audits in the premises
3rd level: Certifying wellness champions within organisations through wellness certification programmes.

raelene.kambli@expressindia.com

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