What radiologists want in a diagnostic workstation workspace

By Staff News Brief

Radiologists may benefit more using a diagnostic workstation with a dual non-imaging monitor display configuration with respect to convenience and workflow productivity than a single one, radiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore suggest. This recommendation is based on a survey of academic radiologists, whose findings are published in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

The University of Maryland’s radiology department was a leading proponent and early adopter of digital imaging technology, including radiology information systems (RIS), picture archiving communications systems (PACS), and speech recognition dictation technology in the 1990’s. Its radiologists and staff have conducted much research on the ergonomics of digital reading rooms and diagnostic workstation configurations.

This latest study was conducted to investigate the variations in physical and digital workspaces at radiology workstations throughout the United States. The authors also wanted to learn about the degree to which patient information and reading workstation applications are influenced by the workspace configurations, radiologists’ preference, and their age and experience levels.

A validated survey was electronically sent to all 1333 members of the Association of University Radiologists, generating a 25% response. The age of respondents ranged from being under age 30 to over age 70, with the majority (36%) aged 31-40, followed by 24% aged 51-60, and 19% aged 41-50. They represented a mix of subspecialties, with 28% identifying themselves as body radiologists, 16% as musculoskeletal, 13% as neuroradiologists, and 10% as breast imagers.

One aspect of the survey focused on frequency of workstation use. Nearly all (98%) respondents used a multi-monitor diagnostic display, with 75% using a two-monitor configuration, 10% using three monitors, and 13% using four- or more diagnostic monitor configurations. With respect to non-imaging monitors that were used primarily for dictation, RIS order information and worklists (case information), and to access the electronic medical records (EMRs) of patients, 51% used two display monitors, 3% used three or more, and 46% used only one.

Approximately 118 radiologists responded that they felt an additional non-imaging monitor would be useful. Radiologists with a two-monitor or greater configuration were more likely to keep case information windows and EMRs open than those using the one-monitor configuration. The majority of respondents reported that they kept three to five applications open on non-imaging monitors, particularly dictation software programs (92%), worklists and other case related information (78%), and EMRs (77%).

Lead author and radiologist Arjun Sharma, MD, now affiliated with the Adventist Hinsdale Hospital in Hinsdale, IL, and co-authors limited the relational analysis of their study to evaluating  the use, configuration, and satisfaction level of non-imaging monitors configurations. They found that 40% of radiologists under age 50 felt that additional monitors would be helpful. By comparison, only 18% of radiologists over 60 concurred. And, 49% of these 60+ year-old radiologists did not see any benefit in having access to additional monitors.

The authors identified a correlation between radiologist age and the number of applications open on non-imaging monitors. 77% of radiologists over age 70 only kept one or two applications only, whereas 71% of radiologists younger than age 30 routinely kept five or more applications open. They also identified a direct relationship between the number of applications kept open and the perceived difficulty of use of the diagnostic workstation workspace configuration. The authors speculated that this may be the result of generational differences in the use of multi-tasking with electronic communications technologies and devices.

A single non-imaging monitor configuration for diagnostic workstations is used at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The authors reported that it often is cumbersome to switch between the dictation software and worklists or other case information. 

“Individual radiologists rarely have control over the specific nature of the computing environments in which they spend the majority of their workdays,” wrote the authors. “Although many are comfortable with their computing workflows, a significant number indicate dissatisfaction and may be interested in being able to specify the amount of monitor space with which they can work.”

The authors recommend that further investigation would be beneficial to determine if adding an additional non-imaging monitor could increase productivity or the quality of interpretation and thus care provided by a radiologist. .


  1. Sharma A, Wang K, Siegel E. Radiologist Digital Workspace Use and Preference: a Survey-Based Study. J Digit Imaging. 2017 30;6:687-694.
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What radiologists want in a diagnostic workstation workspace.  Appl Radiol. 

By Staff News Brief| February 07, 2018

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