Imagers make over medical conference rooms

March 20, 2003

Clinical conferences and multidisciplinary medical rounds carried out in hospital conference rooms rely on the presentation of images, charts, and videotapes. Like operating rooms, they are often overlooked during PACS planning sessions. But any facility

Clinical conferences and multidisciplinary medical rounds carried out in hospital conference rooms rely on the presentation of images, charts, and videotapes. Like operating rooms, they are often overlooked during PACS planning sessions. But any facility planning a PACS implementation should reassess how to deal with conference rooms.

How to tackle the actual logistics of displaying radiological images in conference rooms was the subject of an RSNA meeting presentation by Dr. David Hirschorn, a clinical fellow in radiology informatics and MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"You can't stop printing film until you can get your images everywhere that film goes," Hirschorn said.

As with any PACS implementation project, it's important to outline priorities. Although many radiologists may want a full PACS workstation set up in their conference rooms, some presentations, such as those made in educational cases-of-the-week meetings, require only cheaper Web-based access.

"Everyone and their brother wanted to digitize their conference rooms," Hirschorn said.

In its migration toward a new digital hospital, the University of California, Los Angeles developed plans for the conference room of the future, the subject of an infoRAD exhibit during the RSNA meeting. Interactive walk-throughs and 3D computer modeling realistically simulated the design of the space prior to construction and allowed for measuring and optimizing space occupation, viewing angles, acoustics, screen position, and lighting. Integration of PACS and other sources of clinical data through wireless tablets provides users with a new level of mobility and efficiency.

"We need to design more efficient conference rooms," said Dr. Osman Ratib, vice chair of information systems at UCLA. "We're all struggling with space-how we can use the same conference room for multiple purposes."

A typical day in the life of a conference room begins at 7:30 a.m., when it's used for multidisciplinary reviews of complex clinical cases. At noon, there's a residents lecture, and in the afternoon, the room is used by the administrator and billing staff for a business meeting. Then, at 5 p.m., it's used for remote videoconferencing with other academic centers for research projects.

"Working with RBB Architects of Los Angeles, we reevaluated everything, from location of the screens-which move around on tracking, so you can use the room horizontally or vertically-to the function of the podium," Ratib said.

Podiums received special attention. Over the years, they have become much bulkier with the installation of more electronics. The bulkier they grew, the less mobile they were, and the less flexible the room became. In Ratib's design, the podium still controls everything in the room, but it now has thin-client tablets.

"You're back to the podium of the 1920s, where all you had was a piece of paper," he said. "But what you have now is a tablet."

The wireless flat-screen tablet in the UCLA podium design controls multiple devices remotely. These thin-client devices, which are commercially available, can remotely control a standard computer as well as room lighting and air-conditioning. The room is also equipped with a fixed computer connected to the enterprise network that allows the user to remotely access imaging archives and other data on the network.