Attractor-Factor: Reading Room Design Getting Personal

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Careful planning went into the design of the radiology department at the new Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Each office has a window and radiologists can personalize the individual offices, with one using a treadmill while reading studies.

Radiologists have come a long way from cramped offices tucked away in a hospital basement. Newer facilities appreciate the need for productive workspace that allows for individuality and effective consultations with other physicians, patients and families. From furniture to monitors to the environment itself, many reading rooms are now state-of-the-art.

Room with a view

Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas opened last June with a focus on providing a calm, healing environment. Laurie Barr, MD, the medical director of imaging during planning, said the radiology department design team agreed on workspace plans after visiting several other children’s hospitals.

That included an “I” design with a front corridor for patients and visitors and a back hallway with individual physician offices. “The idea was to decrease the amount of interruption during productive time of radiology reading. On the other hand, we wanted to have ample facilities to interact with patients and our referring physician clientele.”

Eight physician offices are designed to be personalized space. “We encouraged physicians to use feng shui concepts,” Barr says. The walls are painted muted colors and cords are bundled to minimize clutter. One radiologist has a treadmill she uses while interpreting images. “We don’t use the offices exclusively, but since we’re here the most, we have more influence on the environment,” she says.

The group uses Dome monitors from Planar, including color displays. All are fully and independently adjustable. Each office is equipped with a height-adjustable desk. Each office also has a window. After looking at the original designs, the radiologists decided to alter the plans to allow for windows. “Psychologically, a window is a big deal to a radiologist,” Barr says.

A group reading room was purposefully left out, she says. That setup leads to increased interruptions and noise which leads to increased distraction and stress. “We want each radiologist to do his or her best on every case. Any way we can minimize stress and distraction, that is our aim.”

Feedback has been wonderful, she says. Plus, the workspace helps with recruitment. “It’s an attractor factor,” Barr says. “We have been actively recruiting and have no lack of applications.”

Personalization is no frill

David Hirschorn, MD, is a radiologist at both Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Staten Island University Hospital in New York, where he specializes in radiology informatics. He recommends height-adjustable desks like the one he uses made by AFC Industries. “It’s key to be able to adjust the desk to you rather than you to the desk,” he says. “Some people might think it’s a frill, but it can prevent fatigue and repetitive injuries.”

The desk and chair armrest should match so that the arms are parallel to the ground, Hirschorn says. If the table is too high, the sharp desk edge is irritating to the wrist. Many users use a pad to prevent that, but that puts the wrist at an even worse angle. The two-tier desk Hirschorn uses allows for both front and back adjustment. The keyboard and mouse go on the front part, and the monitors on the back so they can be adjusted independently for a truly customized workspace.

Displays are really what make a PACS workstation a PACS workstation, Hirschorn says. Many radiologists use several monitors so the two-arc design of his desk lets him put each monitor at the best angle. When viewing an LCD panel from the side, there is an off-angle viewing effect, he says. “The image doesn’t look the same.”