HMNorth WesttrustsjohnsmallTwo NHS trusts in the North West of England are taking the lead in breaking down barriers between diagnostic departments and frontline clinical staff. It is a move that healthcare professionals say is changing how they can view and diagnose patients, and improve collaboration between hospitals across the region.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has become the first among neighbouring trusts in Cumbria and Lancashire to move away from its local service provider contract under the former NHS National Programme for IT. It is now making crucial patient imaging and reports instantly available to staff both across its own hospitals and in virtually held regional multidisciplinary team meetings (MDTs).

The move is already having a significant impact on patient care, following the go-live of what staff have described as a “state of the art” picture archiving and communication system (PACS) and a vendor neutral archive (VNA) from Swedish healthcare company Sectra.

At the point of care, frontline clinicians no longer need to manually request X-rays, CT scans or MRIs and can instantly view a full range of crucial imaging and reports from anywhere in the hospital, directly through the trust’s Lorenzo Electronic Patient Record system.

Surgeons reconstruct patients joints in 3D

In preoperative planning, surgeons can now virtually reconstruct a patient’s joint in 3D before going into theatre, and a much more detailed view of patient imaging is changing the way a full range of healthcare professionals can understand their specific patient’s condition.

“This has changed the way we look at patients and is better connecting radiology to clinical delivery,” says Dr Sameer Shamshuddin, consultant muscle-skeletal radiologist and PACS lead, at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

“Examining a patient’s imaging is now like reading a book. Previously we could only look at reconstructions created by radiographers, we couldn’t change things ourselves while reporting. Now we can carry out very detailed interrogation of patient imaging, simultaneously viewing and manipulating multiple layers from skin to bone in very high end 3D.

“On a single monitor we can look at as many as 40 different images, and simply flip from one page to another, rather than moving between multiple monitors and systems. This makes life very easy when comparing historical imaging to understand whether a patient has improved, and is particularly powerful in complex cases.”

Dr Marwan Bukhari, consultant rheumatologist and clinical lead for rheumatology at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, adds that the new PACS is proving particularly important for teaching.

Multi-disciplinary team meetings held virtually with several neighbouring trusts are now also being significantly enhanced, with authorised professionals in other hospitals able to log directly into the PACS at Morecambe Bay to view patient imaging and reports, simply by clicking a link, instead of spending time manually transferring images.

“This is a giant leap forward for workflow,” says Dr Shamshuddin. “Within the hospital, chat functionality is allowing me to seek instant peer review from my colleagues without spending time searching through corridors. And across the region, our MDTs are now better connected.”

Far more than radiology images will be made available through the new technology, with as many as a dozen diagnostic departments at the Morecambe Bay trust set to make their imaging available trust-wide over the next two years, by storing it in the VNA.

Emma Jackson, PACS and radiology IT manager at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, says: “We are breaking down departmental silos without the need to get rid of established departments and disciplines. Across the hospital this is providing clinicians with much better access than they have ever had before.”

Andy Wicks, chief information officer at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, adds: “The Sectra deployment is an important component of our Electronic Patient Record strategy. When our clinicians view PACS images at the bed side, they can do that in context of the wider patient record.”

Jane Rendall, managing director UK & Ireland for Sectra, says: “Work in Morecambe Bay and Lancashire represents a real hunger in the NHS to integrate diagnostics with the rest of medicine and to make crucial imaging available in a timely manner to the people tasked with saving lives.”