Correlates of Upper Extremity Disability in Medical Transcriptionists

Objective To investigate the association between disability and personal/lifestyle, medical, and psychosocial risk factors for upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders (UEMSDs) in medical transcriptionists. Methods A web-based survey involving the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Overall Job Satisfaction (OJS) questionnaires of all medical transcriptionists working at a large healthcare facility. Results Responses were received from 80% (251 of 314) possible participants. Mean DASH, PSS, and OJS scores for those working at their current position for at least 1 year were 8.5 ± 10.1, 14.3 ± 6.7 and 5.3 ± 0.9. Personal/lifestyle factors including age (P < 0.001), lower educational level (P = 0.014), current or previous smoking (P = 0.012), and limited exercise (P = 0.013); medical conditions including diabetes mellitus (P = 0.015), carpal tunnel syndrome (P < 0.001), prior treatment for upper extremity symptoms (P < 0.001); prior workstation evaluation (P < 0.001) and psychosocial factors of perceived stress (P < 0.001), are associated with increased DASH scores. In these workers, multivariate analysis suggests that medical conditions (finger or other upper extremity symptoms requiring treatment or workstation evaluation; and diabetes mellitus) have a larger effect on the DASH than personal/lifestyle or psychosocial factors (age; previous or current smoking; and perceived stress). Conclusions Prior upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms requiring treatment or ergonomic assessment, high perceived stress and a history of smoking are associated with self-reported disability. Diabetics have significantly higher levels of upper extremity disability than non-diabetics. Prospective studies are needed to see if interventions addressing these factors will prevent future work disability.


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