Kent informatics staff at Darent Valley

A new Community of Interest Network (COIN) at Kent and Medway is helping cardiac surgeons consult with specialists in London, and provide treatment on the same day where appropriate.

Cardiac surgeons at the trust regularly consult with specialists in London to decide if angiogram images of the heart show an urgent need for surgery. These were previously sent in the post using encrypted CDs, and could take several days to be looked at, and make a diagnosis.

Following completion of the COIN deployment in March, the local health informatics service decided to use the broadband technology to electronically transmit images from all acute hospitals in the region to systems at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust and King’s College NHS Trust.

Jagdip Sidhu, a cardiologist based at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, said: “Cardiac care is a very complex area and so we rely on the guidance of experts in London to ensure that patients get the best care possible. Some cases we can deal with, and complex cases need to be dealt with in London.

“The previous method of sending CDs to determine this was not ideal. It was slow and delayed the referral process. We had to change this. Using the COIN we can transmit angiogram images rapidly. It takes just three to five minutes, as opposed to days and we can make immediate decisions without this delay.”

The local health informatics service helped introduce this to surgeons, and spent £1.7m on a “state-of-the-art security package”, which encrypts all images and uses a firewall to block unauthorised access. Recipients at the London hospitals must enter security details before accessing the images.

Mick Vincent, COIN programme director for Kent and Medway Health Informatics Service (HIS), told E-Health Insider: “The new COIN connects 13 hospitals and 146 medical centres with over 1000 miles of fibre installed and firewalls capable of processing 500Mb of data per second – faster than the average home PC. In this way, the infrastructure ensures resilience and assures the local NHS that the data stored on it is secure.”

All the NHS sites in Kent and Medway connected are able to almost instantly share information and data using the new COIN between authorised staff at any time.

Kent and Medway HIS has signed a £7m five year deal with BT, to create and maintain the unified communications network to run across their existing N3 network.

Vincent added: “We cover a large area, serving a widely dispersed population. Staff previously had to spend a considerable amount of time travelling between facilities in order to consult patients and collaborate with colleagues. The new COIN offers a complete package that will streamline the way we operate and improve the way that patient care is delivered.”

In the future, the technology will allow GP practices to view clinical information such as x-rays and medical notes in their surgeries when meeting patients, rather than waiting for them to arrive by post.

It will also be used to aid telehealth developments being initiated at the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust. VoIP and video conferencing will also be looked into.

N3 marketing director, Michael Cole, told EHI: “We are installing 33 COINs in the country, which will offer the NHS compelling benefits in delivering high quality local healthcare. Using a network to save patient lives, like the cardiac team here are doing, is a great way of moving forwards in healthcare, fit for the 21st century.”


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