Future reading room evolves from improved physical design, expanded data

June 13, 2005

Tomorrow’s reading room will be nothing like today’s if GE Healthcare gets its way. The company demonstrated at the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology meeting in Orlando a futuristic reading environment designed for productivity and efficiency, which it believes can be achieved by paying attention to the details mostly overlooked in current setups.

Tomorrow's reading room will be nothing like today's if GE Healthcare gets its way. The company demonstrated at the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology meeting in Orlando a futuristic reading environment designed for productivity and efficiency, which it believes can be achieved by paying attention to the details mostly overlooked in current setups.

Features in this tomorrowland technology would electronically - and subtly - individualize the reading room for each occupant. Electronic controls would fog the glass in the door to signal that the reader wants solitude, while channeling music and phone conversations to speakers specific to that reading area. Blue lights would reduce eye fatigue and may improve reading accuracy, according to GE. A reclining, infinitely adjustable chair and a 40-inch LCD monitor would complete the amenities.

In demonstrations at the SCAR meeting, the innovative display screen provided data far beyond those now in common use. An electronic medical record offered a time line of the patient's entire medical history, including prior reports and images, current images, and lab results. The user could drill down at any point to gather more information that might assist in interpreting a difficult case.

Case scenarios showed how all this would come together. One focused on a young woman worried about the prospect of breast cancer. The record included information about family history and suggested that she might be at risk, since her mother contracted breast cancer at an early age. Additional tests in the record revealed that she carries the BRCA1 gene. A 3D ultrasound scan found a mass. A biopsy was scheduled and the suspicion was confirmed.

Much of this information is available today, but in GE's glimpse of the future, 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 was an important theme at this year's SCAR meeting, and it will be a critical requirement in the future, according to Nathan Cabbil, GE's general manager of customer solutions, imaging, and information solutions.

"The significance of the electronic health record is marrying the images with the information and changing clinical outcomes by having decision support," he said.

The future as seen by GE visionaries is still a ways off, but the company is already moving in that direction. At the SCAR meeting, GE introduced a work-in-progress that will integrate the electronic health record into the firm's Centricity PACS. A 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."

GE is also test-driving some new ideas aimed at improving today's reading environment. An experimental radiology reading room, being developed in cooperation with the Baltimore VA Medical Center, will combine "best of breed" ergonomics in a single technology. It is scheduled to begin operating by midsummer.