The NHS Information Strategy and Medical Imaging

In the second of our series of posts on the National Health Service (NHS) Information Strategy, we look at the imminent close of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the challenges this presents for medical imaging and how new technologies, specifically vendor neutral archiving (VNA), can help meet NHS needs.

In May, 2012 the UK Department of Health published The Power of Information, a wide-ranging NHS Information Strategy which sets the direction for NHS IT in England for the next ten years. The strategy includes commitments to implement standard, interoperable electronic formats for pathology and diagnostic imaging, secure exchange of standards-based medical images between care settings, and support for more integrated care through electronic access to medical images.

Experience indicates re-procurement and implementation of Picture Archiving Communications Systems (PACS), Radiology Information Systems (RIS) and image archiving generally takes around two years. PACS and RIS contracts under NPfIT will come to an end in England between mid-2013 and mid-2016.

This could leave a significant gap in the provision of medical imaging systems for NHS Trusts, at a time when the number and complexity of medical images to be stored and accessed is rapidly increasing, driven by the expansion of PACS to specialties beyond radiology and the growth of higher resolution imaging technology.

To fill this gap the UK Department of Health is developing a requirements- and standards-based procurement framework to help Trusts manage the transition, which includes the needs to:

  • Share images and reports across multiple departments and with Primary Care
  • Improve integration with other clinical systems
  •  Provide vendor-neutral archives and
  • Lower system costs.

clip_image002Dell’s Unified Clinical Archive, a vendor-neutral medical image archive, has been designed to address these NHS needs. Supporting multiple departments, it enables the optimal management, archiving and retrieval of medical images and related data, cost-effectively, securely and in compliance with regulatory guidelines.

Share Images & Improve Integration
Rather than being ‘siloed’ in different departmental systems, Dell’s Unified Clinical Archive allows NHS Trusts to store, access and share medical files and images across multiple specialties and medical imaging systems. Radiology, dermatology, cardiology, endoscopy, ophthalmology, digital pathology, otolaryngology, neurosurgery and oncology objects, for example, can all be managed by the Archive, which also has a consolidated viewing capability.

The Archive provides full support for clinical workflow and automation through industry standards, for example: DICOM, HL7 and IHE. Together with Dell’s clinically-focused implementation approach, Dell’s solution can help the NHS move from an application-centric data management model, costly and difficult to manage, to a patient-centric one, focused on delivering better diagnosis and care.

Vendor Neutral
A vendor-neutral archive is independent of department- or clinically-specific medical imaging applications. The turnaround time for a PACS migration is significantly reduced if historical data is archived in a vendor-neutral and standardized format.

Consequently, NHS Trusts would no longer need to be locked into one PACS vendor. Trusts would have the freedom to more easily switch vendors, take advantage of newer technology and mitigate the potential high cost of future data migrations and disruption to clinical workflows.

Dell’s Unified Clinical Archive is based on a patented, open, standards-based (DICOM, HL7, WADO, IHE), vendor-neutral and modular architecture.

Lower Cost
Following the challenge issued by the NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson for the NHS to find £15-£20 billion in efficiency savings between 2011 and 2014, and the Public Account Committee’s report into NPfIT there is a renewed emphasis on identifying cost savings from the innovative use of IT which may be redirected to front-line NHS services whilst improving the quality of care.

Dell’s Unified Clinical Archive can reduce the cost of medical imaging to NHS Trusts through:

  • A common storage platform which enables Trusts to maintain one central archive of medical images, increasing productivity by streamlining access to medical images across multiple departments.
  • A vendor-neutral, open architecture which eliminates the need for Trusts to undertake future medical imaging data migrations.
  • An object-based and metadata-aware architecture which provides the ability to scale as patient data grows. Standards-based hardware and a modular design enables Trusts to purchase storage on demand, adding, replacing or retiring nodes without the manual setup, management complexity and costs of traditional file and block storage.
  • A single, unified archive which removes isolated, proprietary silos throughout the Trust, simplifying the IT management of systems and medical image data and, consequently, reducing support and storage costs.

Dell & the NHS
To help encourage the creation of a more dynamic and diverse health IT market, the Department of Health has partnered with Intellect – a UK technology industry body representing IT service companies including Dell – to provide IT industry input to the strategy and its implementation.

Dell has partnered with the NHS to deliver healthcare solutions for over 15 years. Dell provides clinical transformation consulting; healthcare applications implementation consulting; application development, testing, management and support services; delivery of infrastructure, from end user to server, data centre and networking; infrastructure consulting services; medical records digitisation, mobile clinical computing and vendor neutral medical image archiving solutions.

The roll out of PACS across England has been considered one of NPfIT’s major success stories. Dell UK Healthcare’s experience of NHS PACS deployment projects includes 29 PACS implementations and upgrades and 45 image sharing and image archiving implementations.

The first Dell UK Unified Clinical Archiving pilot successfully went live in July 2011 at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, archiving ophthalmology PACS to a replicated storage environment. Three further pilots are in progress.

City Hospitals Sunderland is focused on ensuring patient safety and quality of care. Critical information we have on our patients needs to be stored, protected, correlated, shared and made accessible for our clinicians. Storing this amount of information is demanding as the volume of patient images generated grows daily. We worked with Dell in deploying the Unified Clinical Archive solution as a pilot focused primarily on archiving in our Ophthalmic Imaging System. The UCA solution has enabled clinical applications to allow our staff to spend more time with patients and on patient care rather than dealing with hard-copy images.
– Andy Hart, Director of IT & IG at City Hospitals, Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

Dell also manages one of the largest clinical cloud archives in the world, with over 5 billion medical images across 800 U.S. clinical sites.

Learn more about Dell’s healthcare medical archiving solutions.

About the Author: Andrew Jackson