Mark O\'Herlihy of Perceptive Software on the emergence and adoption of VNA technology in the UK
As hospitals up and down the country look to replace or update their Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), BBH speaks to MARK O’HERLIHY about the growing interest in Vendor Neutral Archiving (VNA) systems
Radiology PACS help hospitals to store and access medical imaging records. Every X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT and endoscopy, for example, is saved within it and then accessed by medical staff as necessary.
Current PACS technologies are nearing the end of their lives and hospitals up and down the country are looking at the market to choose a replacement.
For some trusts it is easier to do nothing and stick with what they have, but we are getting them to see they can make huge savings
But things have moved on since the original systems were installed and there is now a new, increasingly-popular option.
Vendor Neutral Archiving – or VNA – is a system that sits between applications like electronic patient records (EPR) and radiology systems and a hospital’s own storage system. As suggested in the name, it is vendor neutral, so can store images from any device using industry standards.
But the biggest improvement on current systems, is the way VNA can provide meaningful use to the data stored, in a way that proprietary brands cannot.
With most traditional PACS, while they have standard interfaces, the workflow and management side is usually bespoke to the manufacturer and may do little else than provide a repository for the images.
But, as more medical specialties incorporate images into their practice, there is a need to extend image storage and distribution capability to other departments, enterprise wide.
Increasingly there is a desire to inter-operate at a higher application level, separating departmental-specific workflows, displaying and analysing solutions from image storage infrastructure, using standard protocols that are image and metadata aware, without sacrificing display performance.
And this is where VNA comes in.
Speaking to BBH , Mark O’Herlihy, EMEA director for healthcare at Perceptive Software, said: “There are clinical and business benefits to deploying VNA over more traditional systems. For clinical staff, it helps them execute a ‘vendor independence’ strategy where clinical data becomes more mobile and ‘liquid’ so that it is readily available at the point of care through the EPR, web-based clients, mobile devices or wherever it must be delivered inside or outside the enterprise. They want to be able to see data in one view, on one platform and at the point of care and VNA allows you can do that. It is not replacing applications, but is helping to consolidate them.”
Unlike with proprietary PACS, you don’t have to wait for contracts to run out to migrate data. VNA can be deployed quite quickly and systems can be expanded over time
VNA technology has been deployed across all health boards in Wales as part of a collaborative procurement. On a smaller scale, Sussex and Surrey have also come together to improve data sharing, and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust have announced they are creating a joint central repository for their imaging and clinical data.
Paul Brettle, divisional manager of radiology at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, said of the move: “Forming one repository for our imaging and clinical data in partnership with the Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust is a cost-effective solution which benefits patients and clinicians of both hospitals.”
Other hospitals are now expected to follow suit as PACS contracts come up for renewal. O’Herlihy said: “Another benefit for trusts is that, unlike with proprietary PACS, you don’t have to wait for contracts to run out to migrate data. VNA can be deployed quite quickly and systems can be expanded over time.
“Paediatric records can be kept for up to 25 years, however often they don’t need to be accessed very often. Where the benefits of VNA come in is the hospital can put that information into different storage tiers that is cheaper and more efficient.
“For some trusts it is easier to do nothing and stick with what they have, but we are getting them to see they can make huge savings.
“The beauty of the VNA is that you can link to other systems such as finance solutions so a finance director can look at billing reports for individual speciality areas. For a hospital trust in the current competitive marketplace, this sort of visibility is crucial.”
Speaking about the benefits for hospitals, Christopher Tomlinson, administrative director for radiology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has implemented a VNA system, said: “The five-year ownership cost of PACS with a couple different vendors is estimated to cost around $2.84m, including conversion, migration, project management and other costs. Switching to a VNA approach, however, would avoid these costs. In addition, going the VNA route would improve current and future asset utilisation as data volumes skyrocket. It would also reduce future data migration effort and costs.”