Tags: VNA

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

Post WannaCry, It’s Time To Think Of A Better Future

As the worst of the NHS Ransomware crisis fades, it’s time to try and take stock of what happened.

Firstly, SynApps Solutions is very concerned, and is here to help any NHS Trust or other healthcare organisation still struggling to beat off the WannaCry malware infection. As a proud supplier of information technology solutions to the national health Service, we were appalled by this vicious cyber attack, and our team is here to offer any advice needed over and above that provided by NHS Digital and NHS England to get you back up and safe.

However once the immediate aftermath is over, we have to think, as an IT community, about what to do to ensure it can’t ever disrupt our hospitals and GP surgeries again.

The key to that has to be modernisation. It’s definitely time to upgrade hospital architecture, and this is a problem that needs the joint, smart thinking and collaboration of the NHS, the Department of Health, the supplier base – and ultimately, the government.

All these stakeholders need to pull together to rebuild patient and citizen trust in our resilience and stability. There will be a financial aspect to this, ultimately. The XP holdover happened because both the government and many CCIOs just didn’t want to spend money. It’s tempting to stick to such platforms, as you will want to sweat the asset and extract as much value from it as you can over time – and, as we all know, the NHS has huge budgetary pressures these days.

But as the crisis has shown, it’s a false economy to keep putting off replacement of IT. It’s effectively leaving a back window open in your system stack that a malicious ill-wind like WannaCry can blow into. So, let’s address that.

Standards and great software design will help

We need to fix this because we’re just not going to get any real traction to what we all want, which is a digital-empowered NHS.

The good news is that no SynApps VNA or Integrated Digital Care Record clients were affected this month. That’s because content (be it DICOM image files or patient records) stored in ECM (Enterprise Content Management) platforms are protected against attack in multiple ways. For a start, content is stored in the server and separated from the desktop; so unlike with a mounted network drive, attack at the desktop level, in the style of WannaCry ransomware, would only affect temporary, local, copies and not have an impact of the master files stored in the server.

Even better, ECM version control always allows the roll back of any corrupted file to a proper version, so should an end user mistakenly upload a corrupted file the system can revert, safely, to where it should be. And finally, encryption at rest will stop any unauthorised access to the content

Another advantage of ECM-powered NHS suites will be their sound design. Written to the latest software engineering best practice metrics, and in our case firmly adhering to important international standards like CDA, it’s just a much safer bet to put your faith into something like this than an archaic, obsolete platform.

Perhaps it’s a bit too soon for some of you to be thinking like this, but ultimately we have to re-stabilise NHS IT and ensure it’s bulletproof from now on.

Look to ECM as one way to do just that. It can really help.

Gary Britnell
Head of SynApps Healthcare Practice

SynApps Seen As The Foundation Of Key Digital Exemplar EPR Project






In widely-followed sector publication Digital Health, SynApps Solutions project at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust has received some positive coverage.

A project is underway there to deliver a new Electronic Patient Record strategy based on an open standards-based vendor-neutral archive. The article discusses how Royal Liverpool is one of NHS England’s 16 global digital exemplar sites, which are being centrally funded to provide digital transformation best practice for other trusts to follow. IT systems used by the exemplars are likely to be adopted widely by other trusts, observers expect, for example.

Digital Health highlights SynApps role in preparing for the EPR in 2013, when we helped Royal Liverpool migrate nearly 90 million images to the SynApps vendor neutral archive (VNA).

Find out more about the project in more detail here

SynApps Takes A Look Back At 2015

christmas-ornament-1042545_1920Can I first wish you a Merry Christmas, and extend a sincere hope you get some good time off in the next couple of weeks? Try not to eat too many calories if you can and remember – the dog will always appreciate a walk if it all gets a bit too claustrophobic with the relatives in front of the Queen’s Speech.

It’s been a big year for us here – especially in our core NHS market. Let’s wrap up a few of the main trends we saw there, and how it’s helped shape SynApps and our progress over the past 12 months.

Tactical VNA

Fantastic to see so many Trusts coming off the National Programme PACS contracts and making the tactical move to not re-order expensive DICOM platforms but move to VNAs. That way, they’ve got their data back and can keep it in a safe and affordable format. A lot of CCIOs did this without much strategy, and it was the smart move.

Becomes Strategic VNA

Then, a lot embarked on the next equally smart step: now that all that X-ray and image/DICOM data has been repatriated, HIT (health IT) leaders are increasingly looking to exploring using the VNA to work with both that structured but also all that unstructured data . This is almost always under the rubric of the move, set right at the top by the Department of Health itself, to move to a ‘paperless,’ or at least radically digital, NHS by 2018. We’ve been pleased to have been part of such discussions – and, better, to be the chosen means of taking them forward.

Collaboration Emerges As A Key NHS Informatics Theme

Over the year, we were struck by a sea-change in NHS technology. We were expecting to hear a lot about sharing of data – between departments but also, at least tentatively, between different/disparate health and social care teams.

That happened, yes. But better, we heard more and more demand for doing more – to not just share but to actively, proactively, collaborate – and almost always in an open source, XDS way.

The goal was to join up the gaps that have for so long been there in the patient journey, not just through the system but across our lifetimes.

So what starts as an in-house collaboration space naturally soon evolves into a cross-organisational shared space, in the cloud, and with stakeholders, clinicians, social care professionals, starting to look to move data around in ways that best suit the patient.

This is really exciting and important. It’s been amazing to have seen this start and to play our part to help it along. This has to be the best way for the NHS to evolve, and it can solve so many social problems with our ageing society. I expect collaboration to become not just a nice-to-have but a requirement for our NHS projects in 2016.

How about that for a high note to end 2015?

Merry Christmas – and see you soon,


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

We’ve Improved ConXPhoto And It’s Now ConXMedia

111215ConXPhoto is a great system we developed in partnership with NHS customers.

It helps hospitals better manage their growing mountain of internally-captured medical pictures – items like photos of wounds, bedsores or patient conditions and so on. These all get photographed by nurses and technicians and are of great use, but they end up poorly filed, stored and managed, and we wanted to offer Trusts a better way of automating and controlling that process.

Today we’re going to tell you about the next chapter in ConXPhoto’s evolution. It’s being extended and upgraded to become ConXMedia instead. You may not be too surprised to learn why; as hospitals used to the system, they started asking why they couldn’t use it to manage other media, like videos and other imagery.

And we see great potential in doing just that – of offering an easy and reliable way for hospital administrators and clinicians alike of having a control panel to work with all the multiple forms of images, they want to.

Underneath the hood here is our full-power Content Management System, which is allied to the standards we know help NHS information mangers the most – VNA (vendor neutral archive) and cross document sharing (XDS). The combination of a CMS, a VNA and XDS capability when it comes to patient imagery is a very powerful one.

As an example, we can easily ingest vast amounts of images, in bulk, across the department. We can store them properly and share them safely and appropriately via XDS. All your access and confidentiality/compliance issues get dealt with in one go, basically.

This is all delivered in the form of a highly cost-effective IT system that reduces your admin and ups the efficiency of your team. I am also delighted to say that a major partner is making the move from ‘Photo’ to ‘Media’ – the team at our long-term customer Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Look for more details and specifics about ConXMedia on the site soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the extended product, please feel free to contact me or your SynApps Solutions sales contact, and we’d be delighted to help answer your questions.

Jason Scholes
SynApps Solutions

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

VNA: A Whole Hospital Opportunity

041019-N-5821P-019Now that VNA (vendor neutral archive) based clinical content systems are becoming more and more mainstream in UK hospitals, it’s worth reviewing what it is we’re looking for out of them – and how far we may need to go to get there.

A lot of hospital CIOs have been taking the VNA route in the short term as a way to reduce the costs of running PACS and other image systems side-by-side. But more than a few of them have a longer term view in mind; using the VNA as a standards-based way of creating a single method for working with all sorts of data, not just images – as a back-door, but very pragmatic, way of getting to the electronic patient record promised by the National Programme but which hasn’t happened.

Making that latter aim a practicality and taking the next step beyond DICOM is where a lot of Trusts are paused right now. There’s interest in putting data in the VNA, as hospitals look to the Paperless NHS target of 2018-20 and want to make better use of patient data, keyed to the central NHS Patient Number.

We have been working with a number of Trusts that got that far, and have also been able to go further. We’d like to share some hints and tips about their learning about what to do next.

VNAs are ways to create platforms for the long-term archiving of DICOM format image data, typically as produced at volume in a hospital’s Radiology department. What’s been driving interest in them recently, as a by-product of the winding down of the National Programme for IT, is that there’s been a lot of ‘repatriation’ of DICOM imagery, but repatriation to this newer technology rather than to a standard PACS system. That’s partly due to an interest in collating all sorts of image files, so cardiology and echocardiogram and so on, into one place for clinician access, as a way to improve access but also better store and archive all this content.

So much dead data

So when making this move to a VNA, what we do know for certain? We know that you’re going to end up with a lot of data. For a start, it’s a question of volume. Few people – maybe only you and your team in IT? – will realise how much data has been accumulated.

So an important first step is cleaning that data up. Some of it can be summarised, some will be corrupt and can be deleted. There is clearly a project around data protection and retention and your policies around those issues. This is a great opportunity to get rid of dead data you don’t need any more, saving disk and tape cost at a stroke.

What you need to try and end up with is a purged set of data you know is important and needs to be accessible. Obviously, that has practical implications for both storage and access. The first storage element is IT’s job, but the second part is going to be about talking with internal stakeholders to identify just what departments want to put into the VNA and what they will want to pull out of it. You can start with Radiology as they will need access. But who else?

That’s where a VNA can start to add value. This is where other sorts of content, like stored photographs, videos, endoscopy files, patient medical records needs to be fed in. Getting that DICOM and non-DICOM content in one place is the objective, but it’s also a cross-enterprise, cross-departmental task that will need proper planning and co-operation around the Trust.

I’m going to put my neck out a bit and say that that’s where a lot of wheels are spinning right now. You have to have a strategy and it’s got to be one that all the stakeholders not just understand but buy in to. And to be honest, you can’t buy a strategy off the shelf from a vendor. To get the most out of a VNA, you are going to have to sit down and plan, with department heads, starting with Radiology but radiating out from there, about the best ways of handling all your data.

Next time we speak, let’s discuss what our Trust VNA customers are telling us is the best way to address that issue. The good news is that they have – and the interest in using a VNA as far more than a DICOM repatriation platform is spreading across the whole NHS.

Jason Scholes
SynApps Solutions