NHS Shetland Speeds Echo Image Sharing With Web-Based Cardiology Solution

NHS Shetland, home to the United Kingdom’s most remote cardiology department, has selected Change Healthcare Cardiology Echo™ to enable seamless data sharing and support easier access to comprehensive cardiac care.

Shetland is an archipelago in the North Sea of approximately 100 islands, 16 of which are inhabited. Located 350 kilometers north of the Scottish mainland, just south of the Arctic Circle, NHS Shetland serves a population of 23,000. Although accessible from the mainland U.K. by ferry and plane, extreme weather often prevents travel to and from the area.

Due to its remote location, echocardiogram image sharing and consultation has historically been challenging for NHS Shetland. Change Healthcare Cardiology Echo™ will provide the two-hospital NHS board with an integrated cardiology platform that leverages a single-database design to provide immediate access to the patient’s echocardiogram imaging history.

Real-time data sharing was a top priority

NHS Shetland has one full-time Cardiac Physiologist who spearheads the cardiology program. Without interventional cardiology on-site, the physiologist must share images with the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary when a consultation is warranted.

NHS Shetland’s current image storage solution, which is being retired, does not allow the hospital to send images electronically. The current process involves burning a CD and sending it via taxi on a 14-hour ferry ride before relying on a complicated series of steps to get the images into the hands of a consultant interventionist or cardiothoracic surgeon for review. In urgent cases, the images may be flown to Aberdeen, but the trip is weather-dependent and is not always a viable option.

In late 2020, NHS Shetland began looking for a solution to simplify echocardiogram image sharing and increase the reliability and timeliness of the process. “We needed a platform that would easily integrate with our existing echocardiogram equipment and enable real-time data sharing,” said Sean Thuis, Principal Cardiac Physiologist for NHS Shetland. “We also wanted to work with a company that gave us the ability to add new modules as our cardiology department evolved.”

Change Healthcare Cardiology Echo™ allows organisations to store, report and share echocardiogram images. With its web-based platform, users can view, import, and analyse images, plus generate and sign electronic reports, from any location. In addition, it provides British Society of Echocardiography (BSE) compliant datasets to support structured and standardised reporting of all Echo procedures, including transthoracic (TTE), transoesophageal (TOE), and stress echocardiograms—as required in the United Kingdom.

As Change Healthcare Cardiology Echo™ is part of the larger Change Healthcare Cardiology portfolio, it gives NHS Shetland the functionality the board needs now, as well as the flexibility to expand later.

Bringing critical cardiac services closer to home

In addition to facilitating imaging access, Change Cardiology Echo™ will support NHS Shetland’s newly created physiologist-led echocardiogram Valve Clinic. The clinic will serve patients with valve disease, including aortic and mitral stenosis or regurgitation, patients with replacement heart valves, and those with aortic root dilatation. These patients will need to be reviewed every 6 to 36 months depending on their condition.

“Change Healthcare Cardiology Echo™ clearly illustrates the progression of valve disease and highlights abnormalities as part of surveillance, which will help us prioritise clinical tasks and decision-making,” said Thuis. “With the technology, I won’t need to do a full scan every year on every patient. The solution points out critical areas to monitor and easily highlights when something significant has changed. I can focus on completing in-depth scans for higher risk patients and involve the cardiologist only when a certain set of criteria has been reached.”

The new workflow will help patients as well, as they will be able to receive the care they need without unnecessary traveling. Only those patients flagged as having a potential problem will need to arrange for further treatment on the mainland.

Looking ahead, NHS Shetland is also launching a stress echocardiography service and a transoesophageal echo service. Previously, Aberdeen’s cardiology department performed these tests for NHS Shetland patients. As Aberdeen consultants will now be able to access NHS Shetland images much more easily, these services can be provided locally, making it easier for patients to get the care they need.

“Change Healthcare is a long-standing, trusted partner Enterprise Imaging solution provider to the NHS,” said Tracy Byers, senior vice president and general manager of Enterprise Imaging at Change Healthcare. “We are delighted to be selected by NHS Shetland to provide our Change Healthcare Cardiology Echo solution to the Trust, to enable seamless data sharing and support easier access to comprehensive cardiac care.”

Find out more about Change Healthcare Cardiology.