Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust has completed the implementation of a picture archiving and communications system and a radiology information system, both from Carestream, and a vendor neutral archive from BridgeHead Software.

The programme of work has seen the trust replace the Agfa PACS and CSC RIS it was previously using, and which was originally procured as part of the National Programme for IT.

The implementation took place in two phases. In the first phase, the trust transferred its imaging data – more than a million studies – from its own local tape copy of the central data store to BridgeHead’s HealthStore VNA.

Once the images had been transferred, they were localised from the Agfa PACS format into vendor-neutral DICOM files.

In the second phase, the trust installed the Carestream Vue PACS and RIS, completing implementation before the contract with local service provider Accenture.

The PACS/RIS market has been undergoing a refresh, as the national programme contracts have come to an end. However, many trusts in the areas where Accenture was the LSP have opted to make ‘tactical’ extensions to their existing contracts.

And relatively few trusts cross the country have chosen to implement a VNA. Clare Jones, radiology IT systems manager at Gateshead Health, said it went down this route because it “wanted a strategic investment rather than just a radiology archive.”  

As well as removing the need for another large data migration if the trust purchases another PACS in future, the VNA would, she said, “support our strategic goals of having an electronic patient record, so you'll have a variety of things available through the VNA as part of the EPR.”

The solution was designed to cope effectively with potential future demands, Jones added. “The architecture and infrastructure we've got around the VNA, PACS and RIS is far more advanced than what we had with our previous suppliers in terms of higher availability and resilience.”

The VNA offered opportunities for business continuity, she added. “On my radar is the idea of potentially having a DICOM viewer access directly into the VNA if the PACS were to become unavailable at any point. In terms of disaster recovery, the resilience of the architecture is there.”

Clinicians have also seen benefits from the new Carestream PACS and RIS, said Jones. “The main benefit is that we've started doing native reporting, so we do our reporting in PACS rather than the RIS, and that's streamlined the reporting workflow.”

Having the same provider for PACS and RIS had made management and support of the product easier, she added.

Older imaging data now sits in the VNA, rather than the central data store, so that radiologists can call up older patient images easily.

“If a patient attends for an X-ray today, there are rules set up so the PACS will query the VNA for any other image that patient had previously, so it's available to the clinicians and radiologists alongside the new imaging.”

Clinicians saw very little difference in speed of access, she added. “Essentially we're talking about seconds to retrieve images, if we're retrieving them from the VNA.”