The image display station is the user's principal point of contact with the PACS. For many users, the display station is the PACS, just as many people equate the personal computer's monitor with the computer itself. Indeed, a well-designed system will keep this myth intact for non-technically-inclined users, allowing them to accomplish their clinical tasks without the necessity of learning the inner workings of the tools they use.
It has been commonly said that displays should be "user friendly," an overused term that has increasingly given way to terms more descriptive of the features of a good user interface . A good user interface should be easy to learn and rapid to use, goals that are not always compatible. An easy-to-learn user interface allows a new user to achieve basic competency with a minimal investment in training. Speed of use generally refers to the time required to perform tasks by the most experienced user. In terms of a learning curve, then, ease of learning reflects the height of the starting point, and rapidity of use reflects the asymptote approached.
Since all prospective customers are new users, ease of first use has traditionally attracted the attention of designers concerned with sales potential, but it is the speed of skilled use that determines the economic value of the display system. A radiology interpretation is among the lowest-priced medical consultations. The healthy income a radiology practice can generate is dependent solely on high productivity.
The productivity of present film-based practice indeed presents formidable competition for the electronic display console. The basic medium offers high spatial resolution and contrast range, and skills for use of film have been optimized through years of training, experience, and incremental improvement of film handling processes. Those of us who have sought to develop automated methods of image management and display have learned to appreciate the sophisticated information management and versatile exception handling embedded in workplace culture. We are repeatedly humbled by the robustness and complexity of the manual systems we aim to replace.
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