[UK Comment] By now, most of us are well aware that the NHS National Programme for IT is coming to an end. Research from EHI Intelligence shows that over 100 picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) and radiology information systems (RIS) contracts will expire in the next few years as a result. Therefore, Trusts will need to act quickly to take control and replace existing applications with their choice of next generation systems.

The recent event ‘Radiology Information Systems and PACS’ organised by Healthcare Conferences UK, at the Manchester Conference Centre on Monday 24th September 2012, provided the perfect platform for healthcare professionals to gather for a day of presentations, information sharing and networking. It was geared to help clinicians and IT alike to understand the  benefits of using PACS and RIS beyond the National Programme and how to integrate them with other systems within Trusts.

There was an array of speakers including Dr Neelam Dugar, Chair of UK Informatics Group (view Neelam’s presentation here), Prof Erika Denton, Medical Director and SRO PACS Programme for NHS Connecting for Health (see Erika’s presentation here), and Alasdair Thompson, Head of National PACS Programme for NHS Connecting for Health delved into deeper discussion on the topics of the day which were of great interest. For example, both Neelam and Alasdair discussed what trusts needed to do to seamlessly transition their PACS and RIS services to local ownership, highlighting that Vendor Neutral Archiving (VNA) was the sensible option for Trusts looking for a data storage system compatible with any PACS software.

VNA has become synonymous with PACS and the management of its data. The notion of a VNA is to ensure that healthcare organisations, NHS or private, ‘own’ their own medical content i.e. it’s not wholly controlled by the PACS application. However, the challenge for clinicians and healthcare IT is that, until recently, the definition of a VNA has varied from implementation to implementation, and provider to provider. We’re now starting to see some uniformity of the industry definition. Many now consider VNAs in an Enterprise context, and feeling they should provide:

  • The foundations for better, secure sharing of healthcare information, both images and other data types
  • Advanced storage management capabilities
  • A standards based solution, incorporating e.g. DICOM, HL7, XDS
  • Improved disaster recovery of medical image systems and data
  • The ability to ease media and application migrations
  • A full audit trail.

We have many discussions with hospitals on what and how to specify and implement VNA solutions. We believe that if Trusts are ready to implement a strategic vision they will definitely reap the benefits in the long run. If you are are interested in learning more, we have written a whitepaper entitled, “What Should the NHS Expect from Vendor Neutral Archiving whitepaper”. We hope you find it useful.

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