The cardiology department at Evelina Children's Hospital - part of the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London - has an international reputation for treating heart problems in children, caring for around 6,000 patients each year. As with all hospitals, Evelina is constantly trying to make the procedures it carries out as efficient and stress-free for patients as possible. To this end, it recently introduced new technology in a bid to make surgical operations run more smoothly.
It's a fairly common for a surgeon operating on a child's heart to discover something unexpected, which requires a consultation with a senior cardiologist. That, as Frank Baldesare, NHS Guy's and St Thomas' IT enterprise architect explained, previously meant the consultant dropping everything and taking the necessary steps to enter the operating theatre.
"Typically the issue encountered by the cardiologists would be wherever they are in the hospital they'd get a bleep to their pager, drop everything they're doing, run down, scrub up, and go into the theatre, but the key piece of information they would look at during the dialogue with the surgeon would be the cardiogram, an ultrasound image that runs during the whole operation," he told Computing.
Baldesare said a cardiologist might have to rush to theatre about 30 times a month, each time taking them away from their daily tasks for up to an hour or more. The IT department was therefore tasked with creating a "simple, one button solution" involving video conferencing technology to cut down the time needed to consult with surgeons.
Initially, Baldesare and his team thought about building a system in each of the six rooms where the technology was required, but decided on a different solution that took advantage of the fact that the department's one ultrasound machine can be moved between operating theatres.
"It seemed silly to modify rooms if we could actually build something on the back of the medical device and thereby negate many of the logistical issues surrounding cabling in a theatre," he said. So a plan was hatched to integrate video conferencing technology with the ultrasound machine.
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