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Building a New Radiology Reading Room: Lessons Learned

Building a New Radiology Reading Room: Lessons Learned

CHICAGO — Take a look around your reading room. If it looks the same as it did 10, 15, maybe 20 years ago, it’s time for an update — STAT. Your productivity could be far lower than it should be, and you and your colleagues could be experiencing physical damage.

“There’s never been a more critical need for improving the ergonomics of the radiology reading room,” Eliot Siegel, MD, a diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine professor and vice chairman of informatics at the University of Maryland, told a group at this year’s RSNA annual meeting. “Volume and complexity is at an all-time high. I can’t overstate how important this is.”

Complaints of repetitive motion disorders, neck strain, and eye fatigue are growing among providers, he said, and many are retiring early on disability because of these ailments. Radiologists at University of Maryland considered these issues when redesigning their reading room after converting to a completely filmless system. The process was long, and they made mistakes. Eventually, however, they identified the best characteristics of reading rooms that minimize stress and maximize productivity.

Here are Siegel’s suggestions:

1. Find the right lighting. Abandon any overhead, fluorescent lighting immediately, and create as close a match as possible between the brightness of your workstation monitors and the ambient light. Without that match, reading time and provider fatigue will increase while accuracy decreases. Also, consider providing your radiologists with individual ambient lighting and task lighting. They will work best in an environment that feels the most comfortable.

2. Give yourself control of your climate. You wouldn’t buy a car without heating or air conditioning you could control at the push of a button. Don’t design a reading room where you don’t have the ability to manage air flow or manipulate the temperature. Work with your colleagues to find an agreed upon temperature, and choose wisely. The wrong temperature will decrease efficiency. For most people, optimal temperature hovers around 78 degrees Fahrenheit, but highest productivity frequently occurs a few degrees below that. 

3. Fully integrate your work station. Have your phone and all digital dictation devices, such as speech recognition and monitors, within a short reach of where you’re sitting. Try to have as many functions in a single workstation as possible.

4. Don’t forget the acoustics. Reading rooms often have a lot of background noise: computers, dictation, or even sounds from abutting imaging suites. To drown out the noise, choose sound-absorbent materials for your rugs, ceiling tiles, and any objects on or around the walls. Also consider focused beams to corral sounds to a small area. Similar to ultrasound transducer technologies, these beams allow radiologists to listen to music or white noise in a crowded room without disturbing their colleagues.

5. Test drive your seat. It isn’t enough to sit in a chair for five or 10 minutes. Whether you’re selecting conventional or unconventional chairs, borrow one from the vendor and try it out for at least a week. This isn’t a purchase where you should try to save a few dollars;  choose the chairs that will positively impact efficiency, safety, and health.

Most importantly, Siegel said, be cautious when selecting your products. Do your research first.

“Ergonomics is an overused and watered-down word,” he said. “Just because a product claims to be ergonomic doesn’t mean it really is. Make sure what you’re selecting will have a beneficial impact on your health and productivity.”
 

 
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