By Greg Patrick
The reading room has been the epicenter of diagnostic imaging departments as long as there have been X-ray images that required radiologists’ interpretation. Like other areas of radiology, the design requirements for this space have evolved with the technology. As PACS and digital imaging have replaced film, the reading room has had to evolve significantly to accommodate new technology and new department workflows.
Many radiologists consider PACS to be a “double-edged sword.” While PACS enabled radiologists to work from any location and provided tremendous productivity gains, it has also reduced the need for face-to-face contact with referring physicians. Images can be viewed anywhere; they no longer require a visit to the radiology reading room. In extreme cases, reading rooms have been relegated to basements – the lowest cost real estate in the hospital. A hyper focus on productivity vs. customer service has led to a “chained-to-the-desk, sedentary workflow, read-anywhere-anytime” mentality which has eroded the customer service approach, increased radiologist burnout, and exacerbated repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
The American College of Radiology (ACR) recognized many of these issues and challenges about three years ago. In response, the ACR created its Imaging 3.0™ initiative to outline some of the ways radiologists can demonstrate their clinical and customer service value despite the shifting reimbursement environment. The ACR describes Imaging 3.0™ as “a forward-looking program designed to facilitate the transition of radiology services from a fee-for-service model to a value-based model of delivery.”
Among other things, Imaging 3.0™ urges radiologists to re-engage with their customers through direct interaction. This requires the modern reading room to be located centrally within the radiology department. In addition to being easily accessible and inviting to all, it also must be ergonomically optimized to enable radiologists to maximize their productivity while spending time with referring clinicians, radiology staff, and even patients.
Internally, the reading room should be designed to accommodate both group and one-on-one discussions and allow imaging studies to be viewed by all who need to. The acoustics must be designed so that sound (including ringing phones and people talking) is controlled, yet the radiologists are easy to reach for questions. Attention also must be paid to ergonomics to help reduce the risks of RSIs. Good ergonomics supports good radiologist health and therefore long-term productivity and job satisfaction. A “radiologist-friendly” working environment reduces the likelihood of burnout and injuries that cost money and hurt departmental productivity.
As radiology and hospital leaders work to improve care, organizational productivity, and staff satisfaction, they must pay attention to the location, layout, and design of their reading areas. My talk at the AHRA Spring Conference with Robert Junk of Radiology Planning, “Are You Prepared for Imaging 3.0?™” will cover many of these issues and challenges in detail. We will present real case studies to show how Imaging 3.0™ can be incorporated into reading room design. Please join us on Friday, March 10 from 11:15 – 12:15.
Greg Patrick is the president of RedRick Technologies in Mount Brydges, ON, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.