Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has entered into a contract for the extended use of the Image Exchange Portal after trialling it for a year.

The portal is a web-based application that gives radiologists the ability to send X-ray images to other hospitals in the National Image Sharing Network, which now has 177 sites connected.

The portal was developed by Burnbank Systems, the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health, and won the ‘innovation in healthcare interoperability’ award at the E-Health Insider Awards 2010 in association with BT.

Radiology information systems manager Alan Salt said the trust has just decided to purchase the system, which works out to be cost neutral.

“It’s one of the cheaper IT options really; it costs us about £3,000 per year. And we’re probably saving in the region of about £3,000 per year as well.

“Up until a year ago, trusts were sending images out basically by post and taxis. For post, that was about £7 each time, and taxis could cost £30 to hundreds of pounds each time.”

However, Salt stressed the decision was not just about costs. He said the real benefit is for patients, as it frees up a lot of resources in the department and allows people to be treated faster.

“Up until one year ago, we were sending out hundreds of disks per week, and they could take days to reach their destination. Now it could only take about 30 minutes to look at a full CT scan, if it came through urgently.”

The images sent through the portal include ultrasounds, CT scans and bone X-rays. After being stored on the trust’s database, images are transferred to the Burnbank secure data centre and then transferred to the relevant hospital.

Once the transfer is finished, the image is erased from the Burnbank data centre, but remains on the trust’s database. The network is accessible from any hospital computer or laptop with hospital VPN protocol.

Read more about the portal in the Insight section. And if you’re feeling inspired, why not enter this year’s awards for a chance to have your work recognised? The closing date for the EHI Awards 2011 in association with BT is 3 June.

The EHI Awards 2011 in association with BT seek out and reward outstanding work within the UK healthcare IT sector. Entries are open now on the dedicated awards website, and will close on 3 June at 4pm.

This year’s awards will be presented on Thursday, 6 October at the Grand Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden, London. For more information or to reserve a table, please visit the awards website.

To find out more about previous winners of the awards, visit our case studies showcase.