NHS Trusts Urged to Consider the Bigger Picture when Storing Medical Images Digitally

As Trusts adopt vendor-neutral archives to store digital medical images, they need to beware of technology lock-in which is a risk with some VNAs. Choosing the wrong platform could limit a hospital’s ability to share vital patient images with other healthcare providers – and hamper efforts to create unified patient records, warns SynApps Solutions

London, UK – March 11th,  2013 – SynApps Solutions, the content management solutions company, has warned NHS Trusts that if they make the wrong choice of archiving platform when storing digital medical images, this could thwart their efforts to share vital lab results with other healthcare providers. This is now a Department of Health requirement, which carries an implied threat to provider contracts if Trusts do not adhere. It could also limit their plans to create complete electronic medical records (EMRs) for patients.

To support the need to exchange medical images with external partners, Trusts must now use vendor-neutral archives (VNAs) so that content can be accessed by systems from other technology suppliers. The danger, however, is that some archive systems being positioned as VNAs do not reliably support content managed by another vendor’s technology, SynApps warns.

“This is due to differences in the way alternative systems describe or ‘tag’ their contents,” explains Mark Winstone, business director at SynApps. “The danger when transferring electronic records of these images is that vital, assigned information could be distorted or lost – reducing the file’s value and increasing the risk to the patient.”

Other limitations arise where systems have been designed purely to hold digital X-rays and medical scans (DICOM files). This means they don’t cater for broader patient notes including treatment plans. “In this sense, they form another silo and their contribution to broader electronic medical record initiatives, remote notes-sharing and mobile healthcare is limited,” Mark notes.

“A true vendor-neutral archive, which has been designed from the ground up to support multi-platform content and fuller enterprise content management functionality, comes into its own here. By getting the underlying platform right, a trust will have maximum flexibility in the way it manages all sorts of data and makes this available – for example via a browser-based clinical portal, accessible on mobile devices.”

SynApps is one of no more than 10 technology vendors eligible to provide vendor-neutral archive solutions to the NHS and offers the only VNA solution that is based on a leading ECM platform.

The company recently announced the launch of Quick-Start VNA. This provides a stepping stone to full vendor-neutrality, allowing trusts to unshackle themselves from the proprietary Connecting for Health archive before they have to renew existing software licences at considerable expense.

SynApps Quick-Start VNA conforms to IHE standards, enabling a smooth transition to a permanent VNA later on.