An innovative new system has been launched which gives hospital clinicians across 5 NHS Trusts in the Midlands instant access - for the first time ever - to patient images, scans and x-rays regardless of which hospital they were taken in.
The new cloud-based image sharing system, known as the PACS Portal, means specialists can now assess the images and scans of patients with life-threatening conditions such as major traumas and stroke in real time and at a distance.
This new approach to image sharing across the NHS was developed by the East Midlands Radiology Imaging Network (EMRAD), which is a partnership of 7 NHS trusts across our region, and hosted by University of Nottingham Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust.
For example, a trauma surgeon in Nottingham can now, for the first time, immediately view the scans of a patient taken at Grantham and District Hospital to determine if they need to be transferred to the QMC or not, in real time and with no delay to the patient’s care.
The new system will support faster diagnoses, better decisions on where to transfer very unwell patients to, and ultimately lead to better patient outcomes.
The ability of our region’s hospitals to share images in this way is great news for many patients but particularly those who have suffered a major trauma, a stroke or spinal injury.
Dr Ganesh Subramanian, Clinical Director of the East Midlands Stroke Network, said: “Instant access to patients’ images across the region will allow us to make quicker decisions for our stroke patients. Patients can be transferred to the hospital best able to help them or have the best possible treatment started where they are. This will transform the way we deliver emergency stroke treatments.”
Dr Adam Brooks, Director of the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre, added: “Having the ability to see regional imaging in real time will be extremely valuable to our region’s hospitals and will undoubtedly improve the management of major trauma patients across the region”.
The new imaging portal has huge potential to speed up and improve clinical decision-making to improve patient care. It will also help to avoid delays to patient treatment caused by unnecessary transfers between hospitals, and will prevent patients having repeat scans to examine the same issue if transferred to a different hospital trust.
Dr James Thomas, Medical Director of EMRAD said: “The launch of our image sharing portal is fantastic news for patients and hospital clinicians. This will be game-changing for some of the regional services, such as stroke and spinal surgery, and life-changing for some of our patients. From our perspective as hospital clinicians, all staff across the 5 connected trusts can now see imaging acquired immediately, whereas previously we could be waiting between 2-3 hours for images to come through. From a Radiologist point of view, they can now see imaging from anywhere so there’s no need to import imaging from other places, for example for cancer multidisciplinary team discussions”.
Dr Richard O’Neill, Consultant Radiologist at NUH explains: “Previously medical images such as x-rays and scans could only be accessed by staff working at the trust where the image was taken. The beauty of this new system is that any clinician from any one of the 5 connected trusts can view, manipulate and make diagnoses or transfer decisions based on images from any of the other trusts, regardless of where the patient is being treated.
Dr O’Neill has first-hand experience of the new image sharing portal in action: “Very recently I was called at midnight by the team at Pilgrim Hospital in Lincoln. They needed me to review a patient who had just had a scan there and looked to be in serious trouble. From my home in Nottingham, at midnight I was able to log in to the PACS portal, access the Lincoln system and review the patient’s images, to make a real time decision on the best course of action for that patient, which was to be transferred to the QMC. For clinicians this is a huge step forward and an incredibly powerful tool, and one that could save lives”.
With major trauma, strokes and spinal injuries clearly every second counts, and delays could be bad news for a patient’s outcomes. Transfer times between hospitals in our region are generally over an hour – the journey from Pilgrim Hospital in Boston to the QMC is around one and a half hours - and not every patient needs to be transferred. As Richard O’Neill puts it, “decisions can be made as if you were standing in the referring hospital. There is no delay, which is crucial for a patient’s chances, particularly in trauma cases”.
The technology is also great news for vascular and head trauma patients, with many different hospital departments and specialities now able to access the system in real time to make critical decisions quickly and safely.