Radiology Turns to Color

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Eizo provides high-brightness color LCD solutions in their 2MP and 3MP medical imaging monitors, RadiForce.

High-resolution color display systems are one of the newest—and hottest—items in the imaging informatics market. Interest is a function of economics and efficiency. Radiology desktop real estate is tight with more applications shoehorned onto displays. And as new color applications such as 3D modeling and CT perfusion enter the mainstream, healthcare facilities are starting to clamor for a new approach to the conventional PACS workstation display configuration. Color displays offer a new and improved paradigm.

One of the primary reasons for going with the latest generation of color display systems is versatility. Color monitors can fill multiple roles, serving as a home for administrative applications and providing a space for reviewing color images. Adopting color frees up precious desktop space, allowing sites to trim the conventional three-monitor PACS workstation to a two-display station. Efficiency wins, too. Radiologists no longer need to trudge from one station to another to read color images; and IT staffers have fewer displays to manage, which can reduce their burden.

Color displays are an up-and-coming topic at many sites. A few pioneers explain the rationale behind the approach as well as its advantages and pre-deployment considerations.

The overcrowded desktop

Sunnybrooke Health Sciences Centre is a typical, busy teaching hospital in Toronto, Ontario. Its imaging team, complete with 30 radiologists, performs 300,000 exams annually. The hospital deployed PACS nine years ago, and until recently, relied on a three-monitor configuration with the third color monitor housing RIS, administrative software and color imaging applications. “Three years ago, we realized we needed a new solution. Radiologists were performing more color imaging, and when we added voice dictation, the third monitor became really busy,” explains PACS Administrator Andrew Volkening.

The hospital decided to replace its 2 and 3 megapixel (MP) displays with Eizo Nanao Technologies’ Eizo RadiForce R22, 2 MP color medical LCD monitors. The new approach addresses the real estate challenge head-on and creates a more streamlined environment for radiologists. “Voice dictation isn’t covered by another application. It also simplifies workflow. Radiologists don’t need to move data from one display to another to open specific applications. There’s a lot more flexibility with the screens,” sums Volkening.

Spectrum Health hospitals in Grand Rapids, Mich., found itself in a similar situation last year. “We were deploying more applications that required color displays, and although clinical applications like 3D rendering can be performed on non-medical grade monitors used in a typical three-monitor configuration, it is better to use medical grade displays,” says George Vallillee, manager, radiology medical informatics. The health system realized that a medical-grade color display system would facilitate consolidation and allow the radiology department to reduce its desktop footprint.

The introduction of the Barco Coronis 3MP DL changed the playing field. “Barco met the bar with a system that addresses the dual needs of color and grayscale imaging,” Vallillee says. The new system meets the hospital’s technical brightness specification of at least 500 lumens, which provides a path to workstation consolidation.

Spectrum Health is nearly midway through its color monitor deployment. The system plans to phase out the conventional three-monitor configuration with RIS and third-party applications on an independent display, replacing each three-monitor setup with a pair of color displays. “Radiologists have realized an efficiency gain,” reports Vallillee, “as they can shift from various applications without moving workstations.” For example, prior to the color deployment, radiologists would need to move from the PACS review station to a dedicated ultrasound workstation to read color Doppler studies. Some radiologists needed to shift stations dozens of times a day, creating a significant workflow burden. Now, the high-resolution color model brings an efficiency gain.

While some early PACS adopters shift to color after deploying grayscale, a few later PACS adopters are turning to color with the initial move to digital image management. Take for example Baptist Health, a nine-site organization in Montgomery, Ala. The original PACS plan called for grayscale display