Zen conferencing: UCLA designs conference room of the future

December 4, 2002

Clinical conferences and multidisciplinary medical rounds carried out in hospital conference rooms rely on the presentation of images, charts, and videotapes.In its migration toward a new digital hospital, the University of California, Los Angeles has

Clinical conferences and multidisciplinary medical rounds carried out in hospital conference rooms rely on the presentation of images, charts, and videotapes.

In its migration toward a new digital hospital, the University of California, Los Angeles has developed plans for the conference room of the future, which is the subject of an infoRAD exhibit this week.

Three-D computer modeling and interactive walk-throughs realistically simulate the design of the space prior to construction. They also allow 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; 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 as more electronics were installed in them. The bulkier they became, the less mobile they were; the less mobile, the less flexible the room became.

In Ratib's design, the podium still controls everything in the room, bit now it's a podium with thin-client tablets.

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

The podium in the UCLA design includes a wireless flat-screen tablet that 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.