Reading room design improves privacy and lighting, limits distractions

January 29, 2001

When the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center began to design a new filmless and paperless hospital, Dr. Osman Ratib took the opportunity to reengineer radiologists' working space by developing new diagnostic workstations. Ratib's new

When the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center began to design a new filmless and paperless hospital, Dr. Osman Ratib took the opportunity to reengineer radiologists' working space by developing new diagnostic workstations.

Ratib's new workstations shift the work space paradigm. One design moves workstations off the wall and clusters them in quadrants in the center of the room. Another takes this idea one step further with an elevated display to accommodate larger conferences.

"UCLA has been doing PACS for years, suffering through noisy work environments and suboptimal workstations with bad lighting, reflection, and glare," said Ratib, vice chair of information systems in the department of radiological sciences. "Often, we end up turning reading room lights off completely because we can't work with existing lights."

In collaboration with radiologists, computer scientists, and architects, Ratib used three-dimensional computer modeling and simulation techniques to create and evaluate different ergonomic designs for diagnostic workstations and radiology reading rooms. The computer simulation approach allows planning and evaluation of different designs before final decisions are made.

Ratib revealed his prototypes, designed by RBB Architects of Los Angeles, in an infoRAD exhibit at November's RSNA meeting. The cyber models emphasize ergonomics while integrating high-resolution flat-panel displays, advanced navigation software, custom cabinets, and indirect lighting.

Special attention paid to space utilization allows more privacy for clinical conferences - the second most demanding task performed by radiologists in an academic environment, Ratib said. Privacy is important in the work environment. Reading or dictating radiologists tend to be distracted by conferences going on right next to them.

"We wanted the workstation to function like a telephone booth - protecting you from noise without completely confining you," he said.

Ratib's design achieves this through the use of sound-absorbent material and semi-closed cabinets.

Traditionally, with workstation tables placed against the walls, people entering the room to consult one radiologist would disturb adjacent radiologists.

"Moving the workstations to the middle allows you to partition the room into sectors," Ratib said. "By positioning the unit diagonally so it's not square with the walls, every workstation has a corner behind it, where people can stand during consultations without interfering with radiologists working in other quadrants."

The project, motivated by space constraints and current suboptimal work environment, attempts to respond to management demands that more must be done with less space, or at least more in the same space.