Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has purchased a vendor neutral archive from SynApps to store images from its picture archiving and communication system.

The VNA will enable the trust to share content more effectively across different disciplines and between hospitals.

Norman Harling, deputy director of information management and technology at Kingston, said that the lack of a shared archive caused problems for clinicians.

“In ophthalmology, they have about five different pieces of equipment that produce images and to make that available throughout ophthalmology requires a different client-server approach for each one.

“It’s a nightmare for a clinician in a clinic deciding where he’s going to open up a viewer, so having a single viewer which can display a wide variety of different content under a single master patient index is going to make their job an awful lot easier.”

Kingston shares a lot of its images with St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Trust, but the process for doing that is time-consuming, explained Harling.

“You either use the Image Exchange Portal, which is quite labour-intensive, or we try and connect applications together. We’ve got a Citrix instance of the Royal Marsden system running in our cancer unit, but it’s tricky to install it and make it available. We need a different type of solution to point to the St George’s system.”

Harling said he saw the VNA as a building block in a longer-term strategy that will allow other types of content to be shared electronically.

”Our electronic patient record strategy has both DICOM and non-DICOM content. We are yet to work out the mechanism that will take some of the other paper that’s floating around the organisation and manage that. Fifty percent of our referrals from GP still come from paper and so we want to manage and workflow that.”

The ability to share images out-of-hours is increasingly important, Harling added.

“One of the things we want to crack with this is to give radiologists better access, and that will allow them to provide the advice they need to give at night time and weekends.”

The trust’s PACS contract with local service provider BT, negotiated under the National Programme for IT, is due to run out in July 2015 and a replacement has not yet been procured.

The transition of radiology images from a BT data centre will begin in January, with content held in an interim in-house PACS from Sectra, then replicated to the SynApps VNA.