Could VNA Be The Platform For The ‘Paperless NHS’?

The issue of how to get to a place where we can start sharing patient data electronically – the basis of the ‘paperless NHS’ the Health Secretary has said he needs us to be moving toward by 2018 – has become a little confused.

What’s the right way to do local EPR (electronic patient records)? Is it to wait for the National Programme’s main suppliers to roll out if not national (that has been waived) but at least regional EPRs that could form the basis of a more common framework? What if we hooked together our existing patient administration and hospital IT systems as the basis for what the Health Secretary has challenged us to deliver, namely “Clear plans in place to enable secure linking of these electronic health and care records wherever they are held, so there is as complete a record as possible of the care someone receives [and] clear plans in place for those records to be able to follow individuals, with their consent, to any part of the NHS or social care system”?

It’s not clear that this is the best route. A lot of good will and cash got spent under the National Programme and we know it didn’t deliver.

Adding to the complexity, but what about a new approach completely?

What about using another system – your PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System)?

You may not know this, but as part of the winding down of the National Programme, what was effectively free off-line storage of vast PACS X-ray and MRI imaging is coming to an end.

That means health informatics leaders are going to have to create their own clouds (as in, big Internet storage) to do this job instead.

The good news is that most modern PACS works to a standard called VNA – Vendor Neutral Archiving. The key term is ‘dicom’ – the file format that PACS vendors use to handle, store, print and transmit medical image data.

Now, here’s the thing. What about using VNA as a driver to open up more and more open standards for document, image and information sharing?

We know it works, we know it’s in place, and we know hospitals already use a DICOM approach to share information.

Using this idea, my company is merging DICOM and VNA with enterprise content management to produce solutions for NHS Trusts that are helping them get a handle on their patient data.

In our next blog, We’re going to explain why this idea is so powerful – and also very timely and deeply pragmatic.

That’s why we think it could be a real help in getting to the paperless, data-sharing NHS.