Smaller footprint displays offer key to reading room redesign

June 4, 2005

Replacement of CRT displays with LCD monitors proved to be a key element in a reading room makeover described in an educational session Saturday.

Replacement of CRT displays with LCD monitors proved to be a key element in a reading room makeover described in an educational session Saturday.

Kenneth C. Johnson (left) and Alan Hedge, Ph.D., speak at an educational session on reading room design.

LCDs, with their compact footprint, opened up a range of opportunities for a 15-station reading room described by Paul G. Nagy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland Medical System. The reading room makeover took place at the Medical College of Wisconsin. LCDs make it possible to develop workstations for the center of a "ballroom-style" reading room, Nagy said. The room was able to accommodate reading stations along its periphery as well.

Even with the multiple workstations, however, the new room is quieter, more professional, has fewer interruptions, and is more efficient, Nagy said. It has a more professional aspect and has actually generated a cultural change: Voices are quieter and more businesslike.

A major problem prior to the makeover was that the reading room often provided a shortcut between a pair of corridors, resulting in noise and interruptions. With the makeover, one door was moved from a busy hallway to a less trafficked one, another door was bolted shut, and an entry was routed through another room.

The reading room still gets visits from referring clinicians, but they tend to go to the first workstation they see. Radiologists who are willing to field questions take turns at that "hotspot" workstation, allowing others to work uninterrupted, Nagy said.

Workstations in the center of the reading room are grouped into three-unit inverted triangle pods, a variation of the four-unit pods first suggested by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles. The three-unit versions lack a center space that was intended originally to house computers to reduce their noise impact, but they make better use of the work area, Nagy said. Computers with lots of RAM minimize disk drive searches and their attendant noise and thus can be placed under workstation desks. In the interest of better lighting, alternators were banished to another room.

Although the workstations are used by single readers, they can accommodate two radiologists side-by-side for consultations with three sitting behind them. The workstations are grouped to allow team collaborations.

The hospital tried to get the radiologists to adopt fluorescent lights, offering a variety of modifications to make them simulate natural light, but the fluorescents were still perceived as being too blue, and they were scrapped in favor of 60-watt incandescent lights with frosted tips.

Workstation walls and the reading room ceiling are designed to minimize noise, but it is not eliminated. One conversation can be heard, but two conversations cancel each other out. Three or more conversations creates a low-level din that actually increases productivity, according to Nagy.

The specialized chairs purchased for the reading room actually have too many adjustments, and their two inches of height range is insufficient, he said.