By Jim Beagle, President & CEO, BridgeHead Software

In January, we announced that our customer Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust (QE Gateshead) in the UK had completed the final phase of an image migration project to our HealthStore™ VNA and gone live with a new PACS and RIS from CareStream. The image migration and PACS replacement was no small undertaking, but where Gateshead (and likeminded BridgeHead customers, notably Homerton NHS Trust and others shortly to be announced) should be applauded is in taking the opportunity that was afforded to them by the ending of the UK national PACS programme.

QE Gateshead used the ending of this programme as a catalyst to fundamentally redefine how the entire hospital handles and manages large volumes of clinical – and (potentially) non-clinical – data. For QE Gateshead, the PACS replacement project presented an opportunity not a problem; it has enabled them to lay the foundations for sharing data much more widely across the broader population of the hospital and within the wider healthcare economy.

Best of breed technologies and standards

At BridgeHead, we believe passionately in the potential for data to drive transformational change within healthcare. The data led approach that QE Gateshead has taken is clearly one we would support. In other industries, such as financial services, we have seen how such an approach has delivered transformation. For healthcare, if we are going to continue to improve patient outcomes in an affordable way then its an approach that needs to be adopted more widely. In our experience, there are literally hundreds of clinical and administrative applications that exist in a modern complex acute hospital. If we extend this to include joined up care across primary, social and mental health, this only increases.

By adopting an approach that utilises a common data management layer across the enterprise, fully supporting open healthcare data standards – as QE Gateshead has – hospitals are able to pick applications based on best clinical fit and administrative functionality and to adopt new innovations and technologies as they become available.

One size does not fit all’ and that is now being recognised by a much broader section of the UK NHS than previously. As we see the move away from centrally procured monolithic systems, organisations have much more freedom to choose the applications they want – ‘plug and play’ portal technology and clinical viewers providing access to the patient data are just examples.

Additionally, standardising across a data management layer enables organisations to get better value for money across their hardware assets that support the hundreds of applications in a typical complex healthcare setting. The IT storage budget can go much further by adopting a consolidated and standard approach to storage and data management – as opposed to buying storage alongside specific applications, which has typically been the case in the past.

To conclude…

Healthcare organizations across the developed world face significant challenges from an economic and a political standpoint. This is clearly true in the case of the UK’s NHS with drives towards ‘paperless records, digital initiatives, joined up care etc. For those coming out of the UK National PACS programme, this presents an opportunity to take true control of their data. This is a chance for hospitals to take a step back and, rather than fix specific challenges in isolation, see this is an opportunity to consider their hospital-wide data challenges and adopt a more strategic view on how data is managed across the organization.

If they grasp this opportunity, they can regain control of their data creating a futureproof environment that will serve them in the years to come.

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