Trends in workstation design: Challenges, mobile computing and the next-generation PACS station

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Workstation design and development is a continuing challenge, Steven Horii, MD, Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM, formerly SCAR) workstation section head, explained to an audience at the annual meeting yesterday in Austin, Texas. Experts joined Horii to discuss mobile computing platforms and the workstation of the future.

The challenge of workstation design


The workstation provides a machine to human interface and must meet conflicting goals, support fairly complex operations and vary operations by the user and task while working rapidly and intuitively. Mammography, PET/CT, combined 2D-3D-4D imaging and viewing of non-radiology images present problems areas, said Horii. These tasks require specialized workstations and are not readily manipulated at PACS workstations, disrupting workflow by forcing the radiologist to move to another workstation or requiring pre-processing. Other problem areas include orthopedic surgical planning, referring physician review stations and operating room displays.
   
Challenges extend beyond the workstation itself, said Horii. Reading room design is a key element in maximizing utility and functionality of the radiologist/workstation interaction.

Going mobile


Mobile devices offer increasing functionality, and the lines between devices are blurring, said William Boonn, MD, of the department of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia. Vendors are focusing development efforts on hybrid devices such as the PDA/phone that combine functionality.
   
Tablet PCs can be divided into three form factors: slate, convertible and docked. A Tablet allows users to use a stylus to write or draw on the screen, storing data digitally. The Tablet PC could prove useful in radiology because of its resolution, versatility and mobility, said Boonn.
   
Server-side rendering stores and processes data on the server, sending results to wireless devices and providing an enabling technology to perform complex operations on a fairly low-tech device. It requires a fast network and powerful servers.
   
“Pervasive or ubiquitous computing integrates computation and the environment, allowing users to move seamlessly between devices without logging in or restarting the application,” explained Boonn. It requires server-side rendering and ubiquitous high speed wireless networks.

The PACS workstation of the future


“Novel viewing and reporting techniques must be developed to further advance efficiency in radiology,” stated David Weiss, MD, clinical section head imaging informatics at Geisinger Health System of Danville, Pa. 
  
Radiologists must minimize time spent on tasks other than image viewing to increase efficiency; hanging protocols, worklists and an intuitive user interface can fuel increased efficiency. Increased efficiency requires modality specific tools arranged by the users that can be changed without desktop searching. Alternative interface devices can maximize eye dwell time on images; to be effective, they must eliminate icon clicks, pull down menus and keyboard searching. Commercial options include the Philips speech mike, 5 button mouse, Shuttle Pro, Belkin Speedpad and Twiddler, said Weiss. “The ideal is the virtual image that can be held in one hand; the opposite hand peels away layers to reveal the underlying anatomy,” concluded Weiss.