Cheshire and Merseyside engaged with Philips in October 2020 to deploy the SMART box, as a means of enabling access to the entire region’s imaging data through a single hub. Due to the ease of integration of the SMART box via Philips Global worklist, the interface was commissioned in January 2021 and has since been used for cross-site image retrieval for the NCCID. The speed with which this was executed is testament to the North West’s role as a leader in leveraging data sharing and integration of care, as a research and development hub in the fight against COVID-19.
Introducing this solution makes Cheshire and Merseyside better placed to lead the way in setting standards in multi-trust collaboration with regional partners. As the only regional hub connected to NCCID, a significant volume of data is captured from a single point of access.
Prof Mark-Halling Brown, Head of Scientific Computing at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust commented, “One of the findings coming out of the end of this project will definitely be to focus on regional hubs that will be able to coordinate and better centralise the data, a hub just like Cheshire and Merseyside. It can take many months or even years to set up SMART boxes at individual trusts, so doing it regionally is the only way to scale up nationally.”
Steve Sparks, Professional Services Manager RI at Philips UK&I commented, “Most District General Hospitals average 250,000 to 350,000 imaging exams per year, with a single regional SMART box we have been able to gain access to the images from the 13 Trusts within the Cheshire and Merseyside consortium.”
The NCCID database is a centralised UK database containing X-Ray, CT and MRI images from hospital patients across the country. The database is being used for the validation of AI products for use in the NHS, aiding the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 in the UK population. This data has the potential to enable quicker patient assessment in A&E, save Radiologists’ time, increase the safety and consistency of care across the country, and ultimately save lives. It is being made available to researchers, clinicians, technology companies and all those wanting to investigate the disease and develop solutions that can support the COVID-19 patient care pathway.
The SMART box technology will also enable Cheshire and Merseyside to participate in research into many areas requiring large volumes of clinical imaging data. As discovered through the NCCID study, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the potential for medical imaging systems powered by AI. The NHS AI Lab, created last year within NHSX, is developing a National Medical Imaging Platform with the purpose of creating a pipeline for patient data to be used within AI technology across conditions other than COVID-19. The NCCID is one workstream taken forward by the NHS AI Lab at NHSX, which will accelerate the safe, ethical, and effective adoption of AI in the healthcare sector. The power of large-scale data collection has already been demonstrated in various studies, including breast cancer screening studies such as OPTIMAM. Setting up regional hubs, such as the SMART box deployment in Cheshire and Merseyside, will aid the creation of these large-scale National databases and AI technology to help combat a variety of conditions.