GE Healthcare today announced the introduction of ergonomically-designed radiology reading rooms developed in collaboration with the VA Maryland Hospital and Eliot Siegel, M.D., chief of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, VA Maryland Healthcare System.
No sooner did radiology go digital than radiologists began suffering from repetitive stress injuries, including eye strain, neck strain and carpal tunnel syndrome related to viewing large volumes of image data. And that is expected to only worsen as the volume of CT images viewed per day per radiologist has jumped from 16,000 in 2002 to 80,000 in 2006. Other clinically significant findings reveal that ambient room lighting increases fatigue levels and lowers interpretation accuracy, according to Siegel.
The five radiology reading rooms developed by GE Healthcare and the VA Maryland Hospital are designed to reduce these physical and mental strains through ergonomically optimized productive and low stress environments. Each of the five rooms presents a unique radiology workspace with features such as blue lights; large, high-resolution advanced monitors with bright color; ventilation and temperature controls; music, ambient noise or white noise; ergonomic tables and chairs; and even scented candles to appeal to the sense of smell. There is also a meditation/hypnotherapy room to allow radiologists to take a momentary mental and physical break.
“Lighting is relatively easy to modify and affects stress levels,” indicated Siegel. “The cost for a radiology department to adapt their existing technology to make substantial changes to a reading room is in the neighborhood of $50,000 for a five-workspace environment. The pay off or ROI in terms of productivity would be less than three to six months.”
The VA Maryland will serve as a show site for best-in-breed technologies and practices with regard to ergonomic reading rooms. GE consultants and ITPS organization will go on site internationally to assess reading rooms and make recommendations from the VA Maryland reading room to improve upon the workflow and design of reading rooms. They will also focus on researching the impact of these ergonomic modifications as well as study human and machine interfaces.
“It is imperative that the workstation optimizes productivity,” said Mark Morita, a futurist marketing representative for GE Healthcare Information Technologies. “We are extremely interested in how to improve those conditions. GE is focusing on the technology and user interface and improving the way folks interact with our applications. We are interested in the outcomes of this reading room project.”
Morita also announced that GE would soon be launching an online social network similar to MySpace.com where the focus is going to be on sharing best practices for reading room ergonomics. “MyReadingSpace” is a radiology-centric site on radiology reading rooms where Dr. Siegel and other physicians will be Bloggers, providing published information that they collect online as well as from clinical research.
“I’m interested in getting feedback from other radiologists and people in healthcare on their own workspaces – share successes and failures,” said Dr. Siegel. “It is a forum to exchange what does and does not work so that we at the VA will learn far more from all of the contributors and from anecdotal experiences and collect data from radiologists and other healthcare people from around the world.”


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