Survey brings reading room discomfort to light

February 19, 2004

The transition to soft-copy interpretation should yield improved productivity and physician satisfaction, but a study has found that poor lighting in a soft-copy environment can jeopardize these gains.In an attempt to establish a baseline for

The transition to soft-copy interpretation should yield improved productivity and physician satisfaction, but a study has found that poor lighting in a soft-copy environment can jeopardize these gains.

In an attempt to establish a baseline for radiologists' satisfaction with the soft-copy work environment, Indiana University researchers surveyed 90 faculty radiologists, fellows, and residents regarding their comfort level with filmless reading rooms. The results revealed low overall satisfaction; nearly half (46%) of respondents rated themselves as dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the soft-copy setting. The study was published online Dec. 15 in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

Poor lighting in the form of overhead fluorescent fixtures with only on/off options was an area of major concern for the radiologists. Lighting is one of the most important variables in the design of the filmless reading room, as glare from ambient light can defeat even delicate monitor calibrations. Lighting and ergonomics also affect radiologist comfort, speed, and accuracy in soft-copy interpretation.

The transition to soft-copy interpretation via PACS has been touted as promising increased productivity and improved report turnaround times, said Lori L. Rumreich, the study's lead author. But exploiting this technology in order to improve efficiency, especially in the academic setting, has been a challenge.

"Without the proper support in place to allow radiologists to interpret imaging in this soft-copy environment efficiently, effectively, and without excessive fatigue, the productivity advantages promised by PACS are not realized," Rumreich said.

Legacy Health Systems in Portland, OR, has learned that a comfortable working environment is a must for radiologists performing soft-copy reads.

"Not only do you have workstation ergonomics to consider, there is noise pollution, as well as lighting concerns," said John Hart, Legacy's PACS administrator.

Legacy provides radiologists with their own reading rooms so that they can control noise and lighting and reduce disruptions when dictating. The Legacy rooms have dimmer switches that enable the radiologists to adjust lighting to their own preferences.