The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has implemented a vendor neutral archive from SynApps.

The VNA will allow the trust to store digital images from its new Carestream picture archiving and communications system, as well as existing electronic patient notes.

Clinicians will be able to access the files instantaneously from any location or device, including mobile devices and tablets, said James Norman, chief information officer at the trust.

“We are not locked into any type of device, and we are also able to view the data from other systems,” he said. “We are looking to bring in cardiology and ophthalmology data, and potentially other data sets.”

The refresh of the PACS/RIS market in England has triggered a new interest in archiving, as trusts look to take more control of their own imaging data, and share it with other local trusts and new networks.

However, a recent report from EHI Intelligence found that, to date, relatively few trusts have gone the extra step and looked for a VNA to store both imaging and other kinds of data.

Norman said his trust saw the investment in a VNA as part of wider moves to improve its IT ahead of a move to a private finance initiative-funded hospital that recently received final Department of Health and Treasury approval.

He told EHI Imaging Informatics that the adoption of the VNA would enable clinicians to access data much more quickly and easily.

“Clinicians really don’t want to get bogged down with technical details of how the data is stored. All they care about is that data is available to them when they need it – they don’t have to hang around for 10 or 15 minutes waiting for an image to come into focus.”

The VNA also offers the ability to set permissions at a granular level for all the underlying systems, said Norman.

“A clinician who needs to access a patient record within a certain field can do so for the treatment of that patient, but they wouldn’t necessarily be able to view the same level of detail for that patient if they were accessing it from a different system.”

Norman added that the VNA would be able to cope with a future increase in demand for access to digital images.

“More and more clinicians demand greater performance for mobility, remote access from multiple devices, lots of video streaming and large file sizes, which historically have slowed down the computer. We’ve tried to take all that into account and future-proof ourselves as much as we can.”

The trust is part of the Cheshire and Merseyside consortium that grouped together to buy a new Carestream PACS and a RIS from HSS.

The original plan, said Norman, was that the consortium would also buy a VNA, so that all members shared a single common data repository.

Unfortunately, the winning supplier was unable to meet the consortium’s requirements, so the other members opted to store their PACS images using Carestream’s proprietary storage.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen already used a Documentum enterprise content management system for storing its electronic patient documents, however.

So it realised that it was possible to build a VNA on top of the current infrastructure for a fraction of the cost of buying a completely new VNA. The new SynApps VNA sits on top of the existing Documentum system.

The trust now plans to offer other trusts access to its VNA as a cloud-based service, at a competitive rate.

Norman said that, as trusts looked to replace existing PACS by the June deadline for the end of national contract locally, he expected to see a lot of interest in the offer.

“We’ll see a lot more trusts looking very seriously about a VNA as opposed to proprietary storage within their PACS supplier,” he predicted.