Two residents and a reading room get makeovers, courtesy of the ‘Digital Five'

May 20, 2004

The radiology residents were a dowdy and pathetic pair. Richie couldn't jump, a problem that kept him from playing on the radiology department basketball team. Amy had no rhythm and couldn't dance, and thus risked losing her true love, a Latin salsa

The radiology residents were a dowdy and pathetic pair. Richie couldn't jump, a problem that kept him from playing on the radiology department basketball team. Amy had no rhythm and couldn't dance, and thus risked losing her true love, a Latin salsa master.

They both needed a serious overhaul, and so did the reading room in which they were working toward completing their residencies. It was noisy and the light was all wrong. There was no ventilation, and the workstations were a crowded, unergonomic mess.

It was time for a serious dose of style, and perhaps a bit of aromatherapy. Enter the sunglassed, eccentric, somewhat geeky, but thoroughly engaging Digital Five, the "make better" team in the "Digital Eye for an Analog Guy" video released Thursday at the SCAR meeting's opening ceremony. In the course of about 30 minutes, the team overhauled the two residents to give them a professional look and new personal confidence. But the Digital Five's real success was in transforming the reading room from a drab and uncomfortable area to a place of practice that most radiologists can only dream of.

Based on research conducted over several years by Dr. Eliot Siegel, chief of radiology and nuclear medicine at the VA Maryland Health Care System (as well as a propeller-beanie-clad member of the Digital Five team), the video provided a clever and entertaining context for important lessons about what should and shouldn't be done when remaking a reading room.

The hard surfaces that prevail in reading rooms create miserable acoustics. Walls should be acoustically absorbent and floors should be carpeted. Music can soothe, reduce fatigue, and improve productivity. Flickering fluorescent lights have to go. Radiologists should have their vision checked regularly, as acuity may suffer from extensive use of monitors. They should also be aware of seating and posture, temperature and humidity, and excessive movement when performing routine tasks.

And the ubiquitous yellow Post-it notes, often stuck on a reading station monitor to remind users of their login names and passwords, should be removed. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires that physicians keep their passwords confidential. According to the Digital Five team, a biometric sign-on would be preferable.

Large segments of the vendor community will be heartened to learn that the team recommends scrapping CRT monitors and replacing them with active matrix flat-panel displays. The CRTs are bulky and generate excessive heat as well as some degree of electromagnetic radiation, they said.

Meanwhile, the dowdy residents underwent their makeovers. Led by a nattily dressed Digital Five team leader (Dr. Bruce Reiner, director of radiology research at the VA Maryland Health Care System), Amy got a new hairstyle, makeup, clothes, and dancing lessons. Richie began weight training. Both tried aromatherapy and meditation, which included chanting "Centricity now." That mantra just happens to be the name of the PACS line offered by General Electric Healthcare, which helped produce and sponsor the video. The other sponsor was EMC Corp.

The video was developed by the SCAR Education and Publications Committees. Participants included the BaltimoreVA/University of Maryland Informatics Research Team.


By the time the session was over, the reading room was remade and important lessons were imparted, including one about the value of aromatherapy. As for Richie and Amy, find someone who has the video (CDs were made available at the meeting), and check it out.