Ergonomics meets future workflow at GE

June 3, 2005
John C. Hayes

Imagine a reading space that allows you to electrically fog the glass to signal that you do not want to be interrupted. Or a system that directs sound from the speaker only to you, so you don’t have to share your conversations or music with unappreciative colleagues. These features and more will be part of the reading room of the future, and GE is giving them a trial run to see how they’ll be received by working radiologists.

Imagine a reading space that allows you to electrically fog the glass to signal that you do not want to be interrupted. Or a system that directs sound from the speaker only to you, so you don't have to share your conversations or music with unappreciative colleagues. These features and more will be part of the reading room of the future, and GE is giving them a trial run to see how they'll be received by working radiologists.

GE's Mark Morita describes the features of a comprehensive electronic health record displayed in the company's reading room of the future. The screen shows a genetic profile for a potential cancer patient.

First at the RSNA meeting and now at the SCAR conference, GE has assembled a demonstration reading room that reflects how things could operate in a few years. In addition to privacy glass, special blue lights reduce eye fatigue and, according to GE, may improve reading accuracy. A reclining, infinitely adjustable chair and a 40-inch LCD display monitor complete the amenities.

Beyond ergonomics, an electronic medical record gives the radiologists, at the touch of a button, patient history, prior reports and images, current images from all modalities, lab results, and an electronic medical record timeline that provides an overview of the patient's entire medical history. The user can drill down at any point to gather more information that may assist in interpreting a difficult case.

How might all of this work? Consider a young woman worried about the prospect of breast cancer. The record includes information about family history and suggests a reason for concern: Her mother contracted breast cancer at an early age. Additional tests in the record reveal that she carries the BRCA1 gene. A 3D ultrasound scan finds a mass, a biopsy is scheduled, and the diagnosis is confirmed.

Much of this information is available today, but here it is centralized for quick and ready action in an environment designed to enhance reader efficiency and accuracy. Combining information in a more accessible format is an important theme at this year's SCAR meeting.

"The significance of the electronic health record is marrying the images with the information and changing clinical outcomes by having decision support," said Nathan Cabbil, GE's general manager of customer solutions, imaging and information solutions.

At the SCAR meeting, GE introduced a work-in-progress system that will integrate the electronic health record into its Centricity PACS and another work-in-progress that will integrate features from its 3D imaging workstation into its Advantage workstation. A business portal for business intelligence and workflow management is also in development.

"It's getting all of our different technologies on the same platform," Cabbil said. "This has gone way beyond radiology. Our customers are beginning to see the benefit of workflow throughout the enterprise."

In addition to its reading room of the future, GE is working on improving today's image reading environments. An experimental radiology reading room that is being developed in cooperation with the Baltimore VA Medical Center will use existing "best of breed" ergonomics technology. A demonstration project based on the new reading room will be launched at the end of July.

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