Tags: PACS

What is a Venor Imaging Neutral Network (VNIN)

At SynApps we are continuously looking for ways to improve our solutions to the benefit of our customers. One such area of focus is centred around standards-based interoperability by allowing collaborating hospitals to establish a Vendor Neutral Imaging Network (VNIN). But what is a VNIN?

A Vendor Neutral Imaging Network (VNIN) is a healthcare-related concept that refers to an interoperable and standardized system for the storage, exchange, and retrieval of medical images. It is designed to overcome the limitations of traditional Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), which often have proprietary formats and communication protocols, making it challenging for healthcare facilities to share medical images seamlessly.

The primary objective of a VNIN is to create a platform where medical images, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic images, can be shared across a region in a standardised manner. This enables healthcare providers, including hospitals, clinics, and imaging centres, to efficiently access patient images and data across different facilities and systems, regardless of the vendor or manufacturer of the equipment used to generate the images.

Vendor Neutral Imaging Network

Key features and characteristics of a Vendor Neutral Imaging Network include:

  1. Standardization: VNINs adhere to industry standards, such as DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), XDS (Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing) and XCA (Cross-Community Access), which ensure that medical images are stored and communicated in a uniform format. These standards allow different systems to communicate, understand and interpret the images consistently.
  2. Dynamic Interoperability: VNINs are designed to support the dynamic on-demand sharing and retrieval of Patient Images and Documents across a region of collaborating hospitals without mandating the creation of a single central archive. VNINs can be integrated with other regional or national XDS registries to support wider information sharing.
  3. Centralized Image Repository: Since a VNIN supports the dynamic sharing of information, a central repository is not mandatory. However, VNINs may also provide a centralised storage repository for medical images to improve scalability, accessibility or resilience depending on the need.
  4. Scalability: VNINs are scalable to accommodate the growing volume of medical images generated daily. This is essential as medical facilities continue to adopt digital imaging technologies and generate increasingly larger datasets.
  5. Security: Given the sensitivity of medical images and patient data, VNINs implement robust security measures to protect patient privacy and comply with relevant regulations, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States.
  6. Vendor Independence: As the name suggests, a VNIN is vendor-neutral, meaning it is not tied to any specific medical equipment manufacturer. This independence allows healthcare facilities to choose imaging devices from different vendors while maintaining seamless data exchange.
  7. Access Control and Authorization: VNINs implement access controls and authorization mechanisms to ensure that only authorized healthcare professionals can access and view patient images.
  8. Data Integrity: VNINs prioritize data integrity, ensuring that medical images remain accurate and unaltered during storage and transmission.

By adopting a Vendor Neutral Imaging Network, healthcare organizations can improve clinical workflow efficiency, enhance collaboration among specialists, and ultimately deliver better patient care by ensuring that critical medical images are readily accessible and shareable across the healthcare ecosystem.

The SynApps VNIN solution offers these critical features alongside an advanced zero footprint diagnostic viewer which can further extend access to not only other clinicians within the hospital but also those users within the community or primary care who may not have historically had direct access to such critical patient data.

How the market finally caught up with the Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) promise

I hope you spotted the great news that came in at the end of last month that the most trusted name in the IT commentary world, Gartner, rated us extremely highly in that part of the market known as the VNA.

VNA is not the sexiest term for a technology ever, I’ll grant you – but actually, it’s a really important tool and one that could really help a lot of people.

That’s because the name – it stands for ‘Vendor-Neutral Archive’ – doesn’t really convey what its power or potential actually is. We know – we’ve been marketing some excellent VNA solutions, especially for the NHS market, for a number of years now, and the vagueness of that name has perhaps not been to its help.

Why? Because NHS buyers see the VNA as in, essence, a medical device… it’s a bit of software that is good for storing my medical imaging data, specifically all the PACS and DICOM data that I needed to find a safe and secure home for when the old off-site PACS storage NPfIT contracts came to an end in 2015.

Which it is – a VNA is a fantastic way to store very large data files and access them really easily. But that was never what a VNA was only supposed to do. That’s because, out of the gate, you had this really cool XDS tech built into it – XDS standing for ‘Cross Enterprise Document Sharing’.

Why XDS is so useful is that it is a standards-based way to work with multiple forms of content, of all different types. That means that a VNA isn’t actually just a place to stick big X-ray image files, though please carry on doing so… it’s actually an Enterprise or Document Management System.

Why should I care, I hear you thinking? Well, a VNA might not be a whole lot of use to a manufacturer, a retailer or a financial services CIO.

But if you are

  • an NHS CCIO or CIO trying to help colleagues in different departments
  • and/or an NHS CCIO or CIO tasked with helping connect records with other stakeholders
  • a local authority social care team looking to join up information on vulnerable or elderly patients to help address their complex, cross-team needs
  • a GP surgery looking for better ways to document the patient journey
  • a CCG committed to more paperless ways of working with patient data
  • a policymaker in an NHS England STP (Sustainability and Transformation Project) interested in the power of digital to revolutionise patient care

Well, then – yes – what a VNA can do suddenly becomes absolutely central. How: because it’s the proven, available and tested way to keep all patient data – from notes to prescription charges to medical imagery to social care interactions – in one place.

And from cradle to archiving – across multiple stakeholders.

In that Gartner report, that route of travel has been clearly signaled. The good news is that here at SynApps Solutions, we spotted the potential for this years back, and have accumulated relevant expertise and intelligence on doing just this kind of Super-VNA work (and have some significant trails underway to make a VNA-based Shared Care Record a reality – an in months, not years).

It’s brilliant to see that Gartner has caught up with us – but we’re not boasting, we’re just saying that we are ready whenever you are.

Let’s work together to make VNA do what you and your patients and service users really need it to.

Chris Brice is SynApps Solutions’ Director of Sales and Marketing

SynApps Takes A Look Forward To 2016

150116Can I first wish you a great 2016! I hope the return to work hasn’t been too much of a shock to the system. Perhaps, console yourself with the happy thought of how slim you’ll soon be with that new gym membership. Ahem.

Moving swiftly on, as they say; when we last spoke before the break , I shared some thoughts on how I saw 2015 as a year in our growth. Well, this time, it’s a bit of crystal ball time: what does this bright young year of 2016 look to hold for us here? Here’s our take.

We’ll See Our NHS Business Continue To Grow

We plan to consolidate and grow our opportunity in the health service, an absolutely vital market to us. We will grow our footprint in key Trusts but also extend our visibility with CCGs and other stakeholders. As we know, collaboration, cross-team and cross-organisation, is the route of travel here as part of both the Five Year Forward View but also the best response to a tough November Spending Review.

We anticipate some of that will extend out of the NHS and into other parts of local government and social care, even the private sector. Contracts that span three or four once very separate organisations will become the norm, I predict, and very soon. Here, the driver is probably not going to be VNA and DICOM so much as efficient workflows. Email is a terrible way for big teams to work together – we all know this. So content collaboration and document sharing will come to the fore, acting as a lubricating mechanism to get better, slicker co-operation going. That’s going to help patients and the NHS, and we are looking forward to seeing as much of it as possible! (What’s great is how our chosen DM/ECM platforms of EMC Documentum and Alfresco dovetail just so well into this kind of work.)

We’ll Help NHS Bodies Save Money

Cash is the problem for the NHS right now, as we all know. The government’s given it a billion to help with technology, but most commentators are saying the service really needs a lot more to meet all its ambitions around the move to paperless. Meanwhile, it’s being asked to find at least £22bn (some say that’s really more like £24bn, considering some got pushed ‘ahead’ in the balance sheet of the 2010-15 efficiency drive) of savings.

Technology has got to be central to that. And we expect to be in the thick of it: not just on the PACS supplement/replacement front, but in lots of things like storage; moving to putting more and more content and documentation in the cloud and off physical storage will save money by definition. We are also going to be making a quiet and very useful contribution helping to rationalise data out of various expensive or legacy silos, as is the case in 90% of Trusts, into more sensible common repository, based on our standards-centric stores.

A Bigger Role For Our Hospital Visual Media Service

And finally, we expect a lot of interest for our recently-enhanced ConXPhoto service, which we rebranded ConXMedia at the end of last year . Trusts always needed to capture and store a lot of photos to help patients and track cases; that need’s never been greater, and now video and medical imagery’s being thrown in the mix too.

As a result, I predict this area will become an important one to us – and also, of course, of genuine practical help to nurses, doctors, radiologists and administrators in the Trusts we work with, all of whom want to safely and efficiently store and manage this data asset.

So – there are my best guesses for the next few months. Will I be proven right? Only one way to find out – let’s shake off the last of the festive merry-making and begin a busy and interesting 2016!

Happy New Year,


Mark Winstone is SynApps’s Joint CEO and Sales & Marketing Director

VNA – Where Are We Now?

10 December 2015 – Jason Scholes, a co-founder of SynApps, has taken time out to detail his thoughts on the state of the VNA nation.

Jason’s particularly interested in detailing the progress of NHS Trusts in using and benefitting from VNA (vendor neutral archive) based clinical content systems.

He argues that, while the VNA route is a great way to reduce the costs of running PACS and other image systems side-by-side, using the VNA as a standards-based way of creating a single method for working with all sorts of data, not just image, is the next and really beneficial step.

Few Trusts have woken up to this great way to home-brew their own EPR, he notes, before asking what might be stopping them? The fear of the unknown, perhaps. Jason addresses this and many other pertinent VNA points in this excellent overview; find out more here

Is Vendor Neutral Archiving the best building block for a digital patient record?

With the National Programme for IT fading into the rear-view mirror, new storage contracts for many NHS Trusts need to be sourced. The good news is that this doesnt have to be a problem – and indeed, could be a real opportunity to find new ways of working with patient data of all sorts, thinks Mark Winstone of SynApps Solutions. Read more from IDMi magazine here – IDMi_Nov15

SynApps coverage in Bdaily: The DNA of VNA

October 30, 2015 – Tony Backhouse, the Head of the Health Practice at SynApps Solutions, has got some great attention in an important online business publication, Bdaily.

The publication had asked him for his views on how the shake-up of England’s medical imaging market could open the door to achieving a true EPR.

Tony was happy to guide readers on how VNA is a standards-based way of extending PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications System) services to incorporate DICOM and other format content.

That, he advised, is going to be key to making the sharing of medical data easier for clinicians, as well as making patient records available across any combination of service providers.

“All a VNA is really doing is to extend your proven, workhorse PACS systems by adding a new dimension to the medical images you already need to capture and share,” Tony says.

“By applying a content management approach to your VNA-based medical records, you can make sharing medical data easier and more practical – as well as incorporating lifecycle management and retention policies to support information governance requirements using standard interfaces, which is what the Department of Health wants everyone in UK health informatics to be doing.

“It’s also sensible to use technology we know works in one part of the NHS and extend it to help in other areas, avoiding many of the mistakes we made in the Programme, and also opening up NHS information ‘silos.’”

He concludes:

“Put all this together, and you can see why VNA is swiftly becoming a promising new option for an NHS-wide approach to electronic medical records.”

Tony was also able to get a great shout-out in for our growing roster of successful NHS Trusts working with SynApps to do just what he explains in his article:

“And for a growing band of major [NHS customers], our Vendor Neutral Archive platform is doing just that – extending a central PACS repository to become a key component of a new generation of virtual EPRs.”

Check it out for yourself here

J4Care And What It Brings To The SynApps Healthcare Story

We are a software company located in Vienna, Austria, with a focus on VNA (Vendor Neutral Archiving) and DICOM viewing and reporting.

We were founded in 2007 by a group of experienced PACS engineers, who wanted to do something that was a) based on open standards and b) used Web technology as its basis. From those beginnings, we delivered our first solutions in 2009, and we now have an install base of around 80 customers – mostly in Northern Europe, some in Africa and the Middle East and so on, but we have had most of our success in the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Austria and Finland.

The two core products we have are a VNA and a viewer, both based on standards and which can also be sold as two independent products. We have customers who have both the VNA and the viewer, but we also have customers that just have the VNA and customers that just have the viewer. In terms of who those customers are, they are hospitals: regional ones that share medical imaging amongst each other; national organisations (for instance, two of our main projects are the national medical imaging archive of Finland and the national viewing of images system for Estonia); and at the other end of the spectrum, diagnostic centres and diagnostic laboratories, which are relatively small but will do a lot of works for GPs, say. In England, of course, we are working with Acute Trusts.

In terms of functionality: we are one of the few VNA suppliers to allow clinicians the chance to do full diagnostic work with our viewer. We are one of the few full Web-based diagnostic workstations. Many suppliers out there have a viewer, but it is not equipped for radiology diagnostic work – clinicians can look at the images, but they cannot take a full diagnosis on what they see and usually need special workstations. With our solution, everything can be done through the web.

Away from proprietary

The key to our success is “Open” standards. We aim to be the most compliant VNA and viewer solution in the market, so we can integrate easily with any other supplier and are furthest along supporting various standards in the field. That’s very important for our customers, as they know those standards are being supported and we are continuously up to date with that.

Standards are also incredibly important in the healthcare marketplace.  That’s because so many healthcare organisations want to exchange information amongst each other and if you have your own proprietary way of doing it, it is often very difficult to connect between hospitals and regions.

Last but not least

And, of course, SynApps Solutions is a big factor in our success. It’s our distribution and implementation partner for the United Kingdom – and anything we deploy in England goes via SynApps. We focus on technology development and work with local partners to do all the marketing, sales, support, and use our software for their businesses.

Marcel Swennenhuis is one of the leaders of core tech partner J4Care, an innovative software company that’s helping medical professionals, as well as patients, by enabling easy, safe and fast storage and access to complete medical records

Next time Marcel will be taking a look into emerging customer demand around non-DICOM, for both Medical Photography and Patient Records-type customers