Important Details to Look for When Choosing a Workstation with a Moving Monitor Array
It is now understood that a well-engineered ergonomically designed workstation can enhance the health and increase the productivity of the user, provided the user maintains good ergonomic posture. Small details in workstation design can encourage or inhibit that ability. Therefore, thoughtful research must be done to ensure the workstation selected has all the needed features for users to not only achieve, but also maintain good ergonomic posture throughout their entire workday.
Making Full Provisions for the Need to Look Closer
If you walk through any radiology department where people are focused on a monitor or group of monitors, even those which deploy ergonomically designed workstations, you will see a variety of body positions. Most are not conducive to good health and can permanently harm the body in the long term, and at the very least, cause neck/back pain and visual stress in the short term. Much of this is not caused by the user but is the result of workstations that are not engineered to make full provisions for the radiologist’s need to look closer at an image at any given time. This leads to a very important feature, often overlooked, when choosing an ergonomically designed workstation.
The Relationship Between the Monitor Array and the Desktop
The full ability to bring the monitor array to edge of the desktop is a critical design feature very specific to the need radiologists have for deep concentration and increased visual acuity. As illustrated below, the monitor array shown on the left can extend across the full breath of the desktop and to the very edge. The user does not need to change their body posture to get a closer look, and can maintain the ideal 18 – 24 inch distance between their eyes and the monitor.
The opposite is true of the workstation design on the right. It requires the user to lean forward to get a closer look, causing the entire body to go out of alignment. This often happens when the keyboard is separated from the desktop, and thought is not fully given to body mechanics during the design stage. Any user will unconsciously adjust and compromise their body posture to satisfy their eyes. There is a saying in ergonomics; where the eyes go, the body follows. Therefore, the intuitive ability to fully adjust each monitor and bring the entire monitor array closer to the eyes, when needed, are critical workstation features that help maintain good ergonomic posture.
Many workstations that do have a keyboard area that is height adjustable, have so because the monitors cannot be raised or lowered independent of the desktop. Therefore, the user must lower or raise the keyboard to attempt to be comfortable. This only helps to a certain point as shown in the illustration below. The user on the right must tilt their head to maintain the angle needed for accurate viewing. Finding a workstation in which the monitor array can be raised and lowered independent of the desktop and keyboard is also paramount to maintaining a good ergonomic posture; one that will increase productivity and visual acuity, as well as reduce pain and the likelihood of injury.
Still, there is one other design feature that can inhibit users from bringing the monitor array closer to their eyes.
The Need for Good Engineering of Monitor Array Mechanisms
Clearly, supporting the physical needs of the radiologists is required to achieve and maintain the desired level of efficiency but there is more to it. Ease-of-use must also be considered by engineers when designing the workstation monitor mount. Any resistance when moving the monitor array, and the need to adjust with two hands or by using wheels and other devices, impedes the speed at which the user can make intuitive adjustments. Therefore, it becomes even more tempting to change body position to accommodate the eyes.
If the mechanism by which the monitors move across the desktop is affixed to the desktop and not to the back of the workstation, users will have to move items like phones and coffee cups to bring the monitor array closer. Furthermore, if the movement of the monitor array is not engineered to provide ultra-smooth transitions, this will cause users to forgo moving the monitor array and a change of body position will be needed to accommodate the eyes.
One critical space: The Space Between the Eyes and the Monitor
Institutions have always had a strong focus toward technology. However, as technological advancements occur, there is the expectation for radiologists to increase their reading volume as well. Providing well-engineered ergonomically designed workstations with all the features needed to help radiologists increase their workload is critical when considering the need for optimal efficiency.
It comes down to one critical space. The space between the radiologist’s eyes and the monitor. If not easily maintained, it will inhibit all aspects of reading. However, this space when ergonomically and optimally sustained can eliminate eye strain, back and neck pain, and increase comfort and productivity. These benefits as well as many others can be realized if the workstation chosen has been thoughtfully engineered with a full understanding of body mechanics; and the appreciation of the human body’s abilities, and its limitations in conjunction with how people intuitively interact with technology.