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ASHTEAD, UK: Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Homerton) in east London has selected BridgeHead Software (BridgeHead), the specialist Healthcare Data Management company, to implement its Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) for a comprehensive pan-organisational image management strategy, prior to its selection of a replacement PACS imaging system.

The BridgeHead VNA gives Homerton complete flexibility and neutrality on its ‘yet to be determined’ PACS as well as its underlying storage infrastructure. BridgeHead’s VNA also enables the Trust to take a more strategic approach to its data management, enabling it to more efficiently locate and share all patient data with multiple clinical teams across multiple healthcare departments.

Triggered by the imminent ending of its national PACS contract – June 2014 and fully decommissioned by 2015 – Homerton needed to review its long-term PACS strategy and decided upon the BridgeHead VNA as its primary data repository, initially used for radiology images, but with the intention of expanding the solution to manage images from other departments within the hospital.

Dzinja Kabambe, Head of Strategic IT Projects at Homerton, said: “Homerton does a lot of work with neighbouring Trusts – we share clinicians, have joint patients and we are also closely aligned to social services and other third party care providers. As such, our solution had to facilitate better sharing of data between all of our stakeholders. We had several options, namely do we select a PACS solution with ‘bundled’ image management capability, or do we separate our image management from the PACS altogether and opt for a VNA solution? We decided on the latter because we wanted to de-risk our impending PACS replacement. BridgeHead’s VNA provides us with total PACS neutrality as, due to its vendor agnosticism, it is able to work with all major PACS providers in the UK. This means we will have the flexibility to make an objective decision about what PACS solution is right for us as an organisation.”

At the same time as its radiology PACS contract was coming to an end, Homerton needed to consider its data management strategy for other departments, namely cardiology and fertility, the latter taking referrals from across London and surrounding areas.

Kabambe added: “We had a policy of keeping everything available all of the time on our primary storage environment and this was starting to have significant cost implications; there were also some specific storage related problems within our cardiology department which led to time consuming workarounds for the IT department to keep relevant images available. A strategy of keeping everything on fast local hardware all of the time is not sustainable. We needed to be far more strategic and BridgeHead’s VNA allows us to take a more objective view of our data. Now, less critical data, i.e. images and reports from patients discharged more than six months ago for example, can be moved to less expensive storage, or even out to the cloud with integrity and availability still intact.”

In addition to its requirement for vendor neutrality and the adoption of a tiered architecture capability, Homerton needed its VNA to support its wider Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. Homerton, traditionally, has always had two data centres on site. However, given it is now running services within the community beyond the hospital site, even if the facility went down, it needs to be able to remain operational. BridgeHead’s VNA will now move data between systems and the hospital’s cloud environment. As such, if one site goes down, the VNA can be used to recall the data that is required and ensure that services to the community and its patients can continue.

Homerton also wanted its VNA to extend to other imaging specialties and departments, as well as handle other file types beyond imaging, so that clinicians can view all of the documentation they need for the diagnosis and treatment of a patient all from one system.

Dzinja concluded: “Whilst no decisions have been made about what additional data will be handled by the VNA, for Homerton we needed the flexibility and reassurance that it could become an organisational, cross departmental repository for all types of information delivered in a financially predictable way and not just an ever increasing bill. BridgeHead gives us that ability to plan for growth of the system in a coherent and transparent manner.”

Jim Beagle, CEO, BridgeHead Software said: “I applaud Homerton for their strategic vision and their acknowledgement that a true vendor neutral archive can act as a key enabler to sharing information and improved cost efficiency, thereby supporting the drive for better patient care. The BridgeHead team looks forward to working with them on this project and ensuring its success.”