Cross-border cooperation on health
The Saolta University Health Care Group was established in 2012, and currently is comprised of seven hospitals, including Galway University Hospitals (University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Merlin Park University Hospital (MPUH)). The Group employs over 9,700 staff serving a population of 830,000 people in six counties and beyond, and has a total of 1770 beds.
Altnagelvin Area Hospital is an acute care hospital offering a range of services, with 472 inpatient beds and 36 outpatient beds. It has one of Northern Ireland's five designated cancer units.
Enhanced patient care and comfort
The Radiotherapy Treatment Project was set up to enhance patient comfort and care, by allowing patients from County Donegal to attend nearby Altnagelvin Hospital (in Derry) for radiotherapy treatment, instead of travelling the much longer distance to Galway University Hospitals. Providing radiotherapy treatment closer to the patient's home would reduce a patient's travel time from 7 hours to 40 minutes, according to the cross-discipline, cross-hospital project team.
A key requirement for the project was bi-directional sharing of clinical images and reports between the hospitals involved. The project team determined that the traditional image exchange methods, such as CD or image link, would not be sufficient, as they do not provide real-time access to data. Furthermore, they are labor intensive and human-resource dependent. "Access to the most up-to-date radiology record is paramount for clinicians to evaluate and treat the patient appropriately," explains Karen Carty, PACS Clinical Specialist, Galway University Hospitals. "The solution needed to offer better methods of data transfer."
'Anywhere, anytime' access to up-to-date images
After a review of the available solutions, Agfa HealthCare's Integrated Care Suite was chosen. The Suite includes an easy-to-integrate portal, offering clear, user-friendly screen interfaces and the tools each stakeholder needs to prepare, follow and monitor the patient's healthcare.
Galway University Hospitals was already using the XERO universal image viewer. This functionality was extended within the Integrated Care Suite, enabling healthcare providers at Altnagelvin Hospital to access and display patient data in real-time, without needing to move or manage it.
Meeting increased demand for image sharing
"The ability to integrate and interoperate with other systems has always been important to the Galway University Hospitals radiology staff," comments Gina Naughton, RIS/PACS System Administrator, Galway University Hospitals. "We have witnessed an increasing demand for cross-border and even worldwide data sharing between public/private hospitals. We continue to move forward with technological advancements to create integrated care solutions that assure the availability of the patient's clinical data at the point of care, when required. This project, including the Integrated Care Suite, is a prime example of what can be achieved when hospital personnel collaborate with the technology available to them. The project took less than six months from project initiation to Stage 1 go-live.
"The Integrated Care Suite has given Northern Ireland clinicians real-time access to patients' most up-to-date images of patients from Donegal," highlights Dr David Stewart, Lead Clinician in Oncology, Altnagelvin hospital. "It is reassuring for patients to know that the clinician has their scans, even on their first visit to the clinic. Dual monitors let the patient see the images, as well. The image access is especially important for radical radiotherapy treatment: fusing diagnostic images such as MRI to treatment-planning CT scans on Varian's Eclipse Treatment Planning System enhances the radiotherapy contouring process, for improved target volume delineation. This access may result in more informed care and reduced toxicities for patients."
"We are very proud that our Integrated Care Suite was chosen by the Saolta University Health Care Group and Altnagelvin Hospital for this important cross-border project," comments Grant Witheridge, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Agfa HealthCare. "By offering a gateway to integrated care, we are supporting healthcare organizations to deliver their strategies and objectives for a model that provides clear, value-based benefits to patients, their families, carers and clinicians."
The Agfa-Gevaert Group is one of the world's leading companies in imaging and information technology. Agfa develops manufactures and markets analogue and digital systems for the printing industry (Agfa Graphics), for the healthcare sector (Agfa HealthCare), and for specific industrial applications (Agfa Materials). Agfa is headquartered in Mortsel, Belgium. The company is present in 40 countries and has agents in another 100 countries around the globe.
About Agfa HealthCare
Agfa HealthCare, present in one hospital out of two, is a leading provider of eHealth & Digital Imaging solutions. Care organizations in over 100 countries rely on Agfa HealthCare to optimize their efficiency and improve patient care.