Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals unveil innovative imaging system

Instant access and sharing of clinical images will speed up and enhance patient care

Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT) is among the first to go live with a new-generation Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS) that will enable clinicians to access and share millions of digital images quickly and securely across the trust.

The implementation follows two years of negotiations between a consortium of 11 NHS trusts across Cheshire and Merseyside to procure new systems before termination of national contracts provided under the disbanded NHS National Programme for IT.

Dr Peter Rowlands, consultant radiologist at the trust, and clinical lead for the PACS procurement at RLBUHT, said: “With a large number of trusts within the Merseyside region, patients are frequently required to attend different hospital sites for certain types of treatment or services and sometimes patients have had studies carried out where there is no specialist available to interpret the results.

“Historically this has meant that the sharing of patient notes and images, between the hospital sites has been slow and costly. The new PACS will overcome this issue by enabling images to be shared, quickly, efficiently, securely and cost effectively.”

Instant sharing of images across the 11 trusts means clinicians will now save approximately one hour per patient needing to be reviewed between sites, resulting in less waiting time.

Other benefits of the new PACS include the dramatic reduction in time taken to view images scanned.

“Access has been reduced to seconds, rather than minutes or longer as was previously the case,” said Dr Rowlands. “We often suffered queues and sometimes downloading was an overnight event, rather than in real time.”

The trust also expects to make additional savings on access costs since it now controls all data held in a newly-implemented vendor neutral archive (VNA), rather than having it hosted by a third party under the previous PACS contract.

Dr Rowlands said: “Our strategy is to move all patient notes and correspondence to the VNA over time. We will do the same for the trust’s electronic patient record (EPR) as it develops, so that all our storage is in one place. We chose to do this because it fitted with our ongoing strategy for overall data management and exploitation of Big Data within the trust.

Securing value for money was also important in the choice of supplier. Between the PACS and VNA, the trust saved more than a third of its revenue compared to the previous contract.

Dr Rowlands said: “We now have a much more flexible and appropriate solution. We had no direct relationship with our previous PACS supplier, which inevitably caused us some issues. We didn’t know what had been procured for us, which meant we were always several software releases behind, for instance, whereas now we’ll be closer to the supplier and hence the latest version of software.”

The new PACS managed service agreement with Carestream UK is for five years, with the option to extend for a further five. Trusts in the consortium, who previously used a shared radiology information systems (RIS) service, earlier elected to implement Computerised Radiology Information Systems (CRIS) from Healthcare Software Systems (HSS) after completing an earlier phase in the collaborative procurement. This will allow them to receive electronic referrals, vet referrals, book appointments and produce radiology reports.

In line with its move to new PACS, RIS and VNA systems, RLBUHT has installed 30 new triple screened radiology reporting workstations, plus 25 new 27-inch monitors for use by radiologists in multi-disciplinary team preparation. It has also re-integrated over 90 X-ray and scanning machines into the new PACS, as well as training 1,500 staff to use the new.

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