Hospitals in south-east Wales are to become early adopters of a new system developed with GE Healthcare that will allow them to share radiology images easily by joining up existing PACS.

The PACS image sharing early-adopter is scheduled to begin in summer 2010 and run for six months. The work has been agreed under a contract between the Welsh healthcare IT agency, Informing Healthcare, and GE.

Cardiff, Velindre, Cwm Taf, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University and Gwent hospitals will initially use image sharing to support the care and treatment for patients with cancer.

The aim will be to make images available across care settings to support the work of multi-disciplinary teams.

The system will use IHE integration profiles XDS and XDS-I. A statement from Informing Healthcare said that this would ensure that in the future, the system can be extended to cover the whole of Wales.

An Informing Healthcare spokesperson said: “All radiology departments in Wales have their own PACS and these have been very successful, but the benefits of these systems are largely confined to the local organisation.

"Image sharing between hospitals is a mixture of file transfer under manual control and DVDs and does not adequately support the clinical needs of multi-disciplinary care.”

GE’s bid and contract win is being seen by PACS experts as a clear signal that the big PACS suppliers are keen to be at the centre of developments using IHE integration profiles.

Systems based on these profiles offer the prospect of an internationally agreed and vendor-independent way of sharing clinical documents and images.

The announcement follows on from earlier confirmation of a contract with Initiate Systems for an Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) covering all health boards in Wales.

A new system that will improve patient safety by making it easier for clinicians to identify the right records for the right patient is to begin roll out this year.

Described by Informing Healthcare as “a major addition to the NHS Wales National Architecture”, the EMPI will be rolled out in advance of all new national systems.

The EMPI will work by linking all the records for an individual patient held across several information systems to a single “gold standard” patient identity record.

It will then ensure that any new patient registration or changes of name and address are recorded once and copied across to all the systems that need to know about them.

Early adopters will be the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board.