Advancing healthcare together - Taking medical IT into the next generation

Experts reveal how NHS trusts will pool resources to enhance services in the future

‘Advancing Healthcare Together’ will be the buzzwords that take medical imaging and healthcare IT systems into the next generation.

According to experts at GE Healthcare, innovations within the sector over the coming months and years will see NHS trusts pooling resources and procuring a new type of solution that will enhance healthcare pathways and create efficiencies across the sector.

Speaking to BBH, GE's European healthcare IT general manager, Olivier Croly, said that ageing populations, the rise in non-communicable diseases, new regulations on radiation dose, and a need for greater productivity will revolutionise the development of high-tech solutions.

In particular, NHS trusts will form local and regional groups and networks that will share resources and pool expertise. To do this, they will need access to a new type of IT solution that will ensure vital data can be shared securely.

"The pressure on cost in the UK is forcing us to look at more-effective ways to deliver care and enhance services," Croly said.

The pressure on cost in the UK is forcing us to look at more-effective ways to deliver care and enhance services

"Services currently have not been very well organised. A few trusts in the UK have already started getting together, but I think this will become much more common place over the next few years."

For example, industry is increasingly developing solutions that enable virtual consultations so that physicians do not have to travel between centres, but can instead review notes and images and report back via secure IT systems.

"The result of hospitals working together in groups and clusters of this kind is that we will be stopping unnecessary travel and improving efficiency,” said Croly.

Secure systems will aid this process, providing the infrastructure through which hospitals and other providers will be able to share the necessary information.

Croly said: "We are starting to see this happening in Scotland and Wales and in a few places in England, for example in London and Nottingham."

“There have been large-scale, multi-trust procurements of replacement PACS and RIS systems. Such purchasing can optimise costs by creating bigger volumes. However, by joining together you can drive operational efficiencies and do more for less."

A recent example of this is the contract GE recently signed with EMRAD, a consortium of seven trusts in the East Midlands that will see GE Healthcare supply cloud-based archiving and communications systems, including PACS, VNA and an RIS. A key benefit is that the seven trusts will be able to share images and information so that any patient can be treated in any hospital within the consortium.

But systems will need to be secure and vender-neutral so as to fit seamlessly into existing IT set-ups with minimum outlay or alterations.

Croly said: "Five years ago we were not completely ready in terms of data security and privacy. Now there is much more technology available to ensure that data is both accessible to those who need it, and secure so as to protect confidential information.”

"Solutions must resolve any patient ID discrepancies and enable images to be displayed across single sites and multiple providers securely."

Shifting storage into the cloud has been a major driver in this effort.

Five years ago we were not completely ready in terms of data security and privacy. Now there is much more technology available to ensure that data is both accessible to those who need it, and secure so as to protect confidential information

"Multi-disciplinary teams need to sit down together and make a joint decision on how to treat their patients. These meetings often require multiple, highly-specialised clinicians and are time intensive. They need to find solutions that will enable them to do these multi-disciplinary meetings in the most-efficient and cost-effective way," explained Croly.

GE's Centricity 360 cloud-based collaboration tools are designed with this in mind.

They offer advanced clinician collaboration, seamless device connectivity, and embedded predictive analytics tools – all with comprehensive end-user controls and data management.

Croly said: "Centricity 360 helps hospital administrators streamline clinical collaboration with clinicians and patients to reduce duplicate imaging, avoid unnecessary patient transfers, lower CD distribution costs, and enhance referral relationships – all with no capital investment.

“It liberates physicians from silos of care by fostering a clinical community where they can quickly confer on patient cases, simultaneously access patients’ images and reports, and collaborate on diagnosis and treatment plans."

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