Bringing Medical Experts Together for Faster Diagnoses

Across the globe, adoption of digital pathology continues to grow. Utilized in the past mainly for research, digital pathology is now greatly accelerating time to diagnosis and treatment for many patients. One of the many advantages to digitized images is the ability to share images easily and quickly with colleagues for collaboration. Gone are the days of shipping glass slides.

The Challenges of Collaboration

A patient’s care team comprises of multidisciplinary experts. As part of a patient’s evaluation, they will meet with some patient-facing physicians such as oncologists, urologists, or cardiologists. However, specialists such as radiologists and pathologists and their findings are also imperative to patient care. When making a diagnosis, specialists need to have not only access to patient files, but also to the records and test results generated by other doctors.

Digitizing pathology images represents a major advancement in how quickly and effectively pathologists can collaborate with other experts to make informed diagnoses of patient conditions. The benefits of collaboration are tremendous, enabling hospitals to provide better care faster. Whole slide images, generated by a digital pathology slide scanner, create high-resolution files that allow specialists to analyze the sample. Because these images are high quality, files can be quite large: a single pathology slide can represent over 2GB, meaning a single case can produce 10GB of data.

Through digitization, especially of high-resolution pathology images, experts can access test results and work together from anywhere. The right people can access and review the data they need to make timely, more informed decisions. This makes it possible for hospitals to not only utilize their internal pool of expertise more efficiently, they can also bring in outside experts quickly and easily for collaboration.

Centralizing Data for Better Collaboration

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust is a publicly funded, integrated hospital and community services healthcare organization. They serve nearly 400,000 people across Hartlepool, Stockton, and parts of County Durham in northeast England, a population whose health is still impacted by a long history of industrial manufacturing and coal mining.

North Tees and Hartlepool views technology as essential to delivering the best possible outcomes for its patients. They treat technology as a strategic investment, not just as a cost of doing business. Their focus is to not only do what they do better, but to transform and evolve their operations to do better things.

North Tees and Hartlepool already understood the value of digitization. However, they faced several challenges to make this transformation possible. First, like many other healthcare organizations, they implemented electronic medical records and a Picture Archiving and Comunication System (PACS) environment for medical imaging. Together, these systems keep both data and medical images connected. By combining all patient data into a single record, doctors can now see a more holistic view of their patients.

There are real collaboration workflow benefits to be gained from this as well. Centralizing patient data is essential to synchronizing care planning and delivery. This way, all specialists work with the same data and insights gained, or treatments given by one doctor, can be taken into account by others working with the same patient. Integrating patient records like this is core to enabling true collaboration. Instead of acting individually, each specialist is part of a coordinated team, using the most up-to-date information at hand, so they can deliver the best results.

Powerful Storage, Powerful Collaboration

As might be expected when working with large image files, data volumes grow quickly. For North Tees and Hartlepool, they expect their storage needs to easily exceed 100 TB per year. To handle this load and enable effective collaboration, North Tees and Hartlepool required a resilient, scalable, reliable, and secure infrastructure that could support their complex IT environment that spans 185 clinical systems, 420 servers, and 3700 desktops/laptops across multiple locations.

North Tees and Hartlepool has had a long-time partnership with Dell and was already using Dell EMC PowerProtect DD for their backup storage. For the solution to their collaboration challenges, North Tees and Hartlepool modernized and virtualized their infrastructure with Dell EMC PowerScale technology.

PowerScale has long been trusted in the healthcare industry for the storage of medical images. To date, North Tees and Hartlepool has deployed 4.5 PB of PowerScale capacity for the storage, management, and collaboration of pathology data and images. Upgrades are simplified through the Dell EMC PowerScale OneFS operating system and PowerScale easily scales as storage requirements change. For peace of mind and availability, North Tees and Hartlepool replicates its primary storage across two distinct data center sites.

Storing, managing and protecting patient data requires a modern infrastructure that minimizes latency. Simply put, the faster experts can retrieve and access data, the more patients they can help. Dell EMC PowerStore enables high-performance input/output operations per second (IOPS) to ensure that access to electronic health records is fast, easy and reliable.

Clinicians and specialists throughout the North Tees and Hartlepool network rely on this infrastructure to access patient health data and images. The system is easy to use, enabling the healthcare team to create, store, access and share large image files without having to worry about file sizes, storage performance or security. The system works and it works transparently. 

The Future of Collaboration

Like any healthcare organization, North Tees and Hartlepool wants to provide the best service and care they can. By becoming more efficient and reducing costs where possible, fewer people are required  to manage the network more effectively. For example, upgrades have been greatly simplified, and once replication has been configured, everything works reliably. This frees up IT staff and resources to focus more on improving care outcomes and empowering clinicians to provide even higher quality care.

North Tees and Hartlepool has been in partnership with Dell Technologies for many years. It’s a powerful collaboration in which each company shares their best practices. North Tees and Hartlepool is able to take advantage of the expert technical knowledge Dell Technologies has built up over the decades across many different industries. Dell continues to stretch the capabilities of its technology to meet the demanding needs of organizations like North Tees and Hartlepool.

The speed and ease with which North Tees and Hartlepool can collaborate is not the only benefit they experience. During the pandemic, North Tees and Hartlepool used the same technology that connects their internal teams to allow patients and their care providers to have remote consultations. It also made it possible for hospitalized COVID-19 patients to see their loved ones.

Being at the leading edge of technology helps North Tees and Hartlepool attract and retain the best people in the industry. The solution has been so effective for North Tees and Hartlepool, that they have brought seven other healthcare organizations in their region onto the same infrastructure. This has expanded their ability to provide expert care through collaboration.

North Tees and Hartlepool’s transformation has not stopped here. They are already looking forward to the next major step to improve the care they deliver. So, what’s on the horizon? Using artificial intelligence to analyze patient data and enable genomic sequencing to further refine and personalize treatments.

Dell Technologies will be right there with them, every step of the way. To learn more of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust and Dell Technologies’ partnership, please visit here.

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