Reading Room Redesign: Picturing Innovation

The shift to a digital reading environment has been a leap forward for radiology, but sitting in a dark room cut off from colleagues is not an ideal way to spend the work day. Innovative institutions, however, are redesigning the reading room, making it a more collaborative space and optimizing lighting and ergonomics for radiologists. Take a look.

Veterans Affairs Maryland Healthcare System, Baltimore

Eliot Siegel, MD, chief of imaging at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Healthcare System in Baltimore, sits at a workstation in one of the nation’s first filmless healthcare facilities. Siegel led “The Reading Room of the Future” project at the Baltimore VA, and regularly speaks on the topic of reading room ergonomics at conferences.

Siegel emphasizes that reading room design should optimize lighting, sound and temperature levels to improve productivity and reduce fatigue. White noise machines can mask distracting sounds, and individual temperature controls can be installed at each workstation, with the optimum temperature for productivity falling between 63°F and 75°F. For security, the room entry has biometric and key fob lock controllers.


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NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City

The reading environment at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City recently underwent a redesign, with the new spaces focused on encouraging interaction, while also having separate rooms dedicated by subspecialty. “Since NYU Langone Medical Center is a teaching facility, the intent was to have open space for greater collaboration,” says Donal Teahan, director of practice development for the department of radiology at the organization. “Also, there also are more stations that are more enclosed and private. Staff like the different options.”

NYU Langone controls sound distractions by using white noise generators and sound deadening panels on the walls. Teahan also says that air ducts were specifically located to not interfere with voice recognition dictation systems or blowing directly on staff. Overhead lights can be separately dimmed from 0 to 100 percent, and each desk has a dual local light with its own dimmer switch.


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Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Philadelphia

The typical workstation setup at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia features back flood lighting with no direct lighting on the workstation that would cause glare. Monitors and desk surface heights can be adjusted independently, and the monitors all have handles allowing for easy distance adjustments, says Woojin Kim, MD, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania. He adds that the setup features two computers for a resident-attending workflow.


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Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Les R. Folio, DO, MPH, lead radiologist for CT for the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., reviews a CT scan at a standing workstation (pictured right). Folio says he picked up the habit of standing to interpret studies while serving in the military and doing trauma reads on deployment in a combat hospital in Iraq.

“We would often stand because you were always on the move. Combat casualty care is not a sitting down job,” he says.

When he returned to the U.S., Folio began using two desk configurations while working in trauma centers—a standing workstation for trauma cases and a standard, sitting workstation for other cases—and now stands for about 30 percent of his reads. Although there is no trauma at NIH as the nation’s research hospital, the reading environment that he helped design at the NIH Clinical Center offers ergonomic workstations for radiologists that allow for sitting or standing that accommodate physicians of all heights.

Another innovation at NIH is that the reading environment is very open, with a glass wall providing sightlines for those in the reading area to survey the department’s entire workflow, including the scanner rooms. The openness of the space encourages collaboration.

“I believe having an inviting environment for consultation encourages our fellow clinicians to visit regularly,” says Folio. “In the current day and age of technology, with digital x-rays and CTs being available throughout the hospital, there may be less incentive for doctors to come seek out our professional opinions on their patients, but this is a new window of opportunity to have consultations with our referring clinicians.”

Folio says the renovation of the CT department will be complete in the next two months including an open environment to the latest technology CT scanners available, with the lowest radiation dose possible.