Functional Furniture: Comfort & Convenience in the Reading Room

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  The VA Maryland Health Care System in Baltimore has spent extensive time researching, designing and implementing ergonomic and highly functional reading room set-ups such as this one.

Like America's obsession with going green—radiology has a new appreciation for ergonomic-driven reading productivity for radiologists. Rightly so. Procedures are increasing in most locales as are the number of images per study, while radiologists are reading more and more studies each year, most often with no increases in staff or radiologists. The answer is more adjustable and ergonomic furniture to make radiologists more comfortable and thus more productive. If you look down the hall, chances are the radiology room has some new creative comforts or plans are in the works. If not, grab some inspiration.

Movement is key

At Staten Island University Hospital in Staten Island, N.Y., which performs about 300,000 imaging procedures a year, ergonomic awareness brought about new two-tiered reading stations for the reading room environment, says Director of Radiology Informatics David Hirschorn, MD. The AFC Industries’ two-tier units have a front section, which holds the keyboards, and a back section, where the monitors are positioned. Each of these sections can be moved independently.

“The ability to change the heights of the monitors and the keyboards independently benefits our workflow,” he notes. “While stored settings are an appealing option, those functions often go unused due to the volume of radiologists at our facility. However, radiologists truly appreciate the ability to stand up or sit down during their viewing periods.”

The adjustability also improves the length of time and the ergonomic benefits for viewing purposes for the radiologist. “The ability to adjust either the monitor or the desk itself allows radiologists, who’ve been sitting all day, to reposition themselves and still have the same viewing capabilities,” Hirschorn says. 

The adjustments also are beneficial for individuals of varying heights. “Even while seated, a taller radiologist may need a different height setting, and the adjustable features of the monitors lend to the optimal viewing level for the body,” Hirschorn says.

Another plus is the desks are easy to clean. “They can easily be moved away from the wall for cleaning purposes. Many of the rooms are being used 24 hours a day, and cleaning is important to keep the equipment running. The units are on wheels, making them easily mobile,” he says.

Mobility of radiological furniture also is important when precious hospital real estate fluctuates. “From time to time, rooms need to be evacuated for construction or other purposes, so instead of telling radiologists that they cannot work on that particular day, we are able to wheel the whole workstation to a different location,” Hirschorn explains. “Without a mobile workstation, it would be an arduous process to move a computer and four monitors for each station.”

“Radiologists are not your typical computer users. They are very often glued to the screen for long periods of time, and the strain from using a desk that doesn’t conform can cause tremendous stress to one’s body,” Hirschorn says. 

Transitioning toward improvement

The radiology department at Mercy Hospital in Chicago converted to a PACS-based environment in August 2005, completely redesigning their reading room environment—which in turn has completely altered workflow for the better, says Peter Jabeck, administrative director of radiology. As a facility that performs about 90,000 imaging exams annually, Mercy has two reading environments: a reading room with five cubicles, plus some of the radiologist’s offices have been furnished with Biomorph reading desks as well.

“We redesigned the whole reading room around our new PACS, so the five separate reading desks were all new for us,” Jabeck says. Within the new room, each of the reading areas has sound-proof dividers, its own adjustable table supporting the PACS reading station, an adjustable desk, as well as ergonomic chairs. Lights in the reading room have dimmers, allowing individual radiologists or residents to adjust to their personal preference at each desk.

Due to the popularity in the reading room, “we also bought the same designs for some of the radiologists’ offices,” Jabeck says. At Mercy, which is staffed by 15 radiologists and five residents, the reading room space is often sought-after and in great demand—so the hospital chose to accommodate certain