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Tech revolutionises genomic medicine services in the North West



An innovative application has helped to revolutionise patient care within the North West of England.

Originally developed by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), GEN-O, is reshaping virtual care pathways, resulting in faster diagnosis, treatment and collaborative multi-disciplinary efforts across clinical specialisms and geographic boundaries.

GEN-O was initially deployed within the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine at Saint Mary’s Hospital and Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, both part of MFT and is currently being expanded in other clinical areas across the Trust.

The platform brings together a patient’s genomic information, simplifying the process of ordering genetic testing, reviewing results and helping discussions across diverse disciplines.

The approach aims to provide the best possible care management and treatment for patients with rare diseases.

Professor Graeme Black, Clinical Geneticist at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “GEN-O can cross hospital boundaries, enhancing patient care, including diagnosis and treatment, whilst reducing burdens on clinical staff and enabling us to work in increasingly collaborative ways.

“GEN-O is a scalable solution, so our challenge is to see if we can continue to nurture the solution and bring its benefits to more Trusts across the country.”

The overarching goal of the GEN-O multi-site pilot project is to show its effectiveness at a geographical scale, introducing a new model of care for rare disease patients within the NHS, across the North West.

The project looks to showcase the benefits of widespread adoption of the GEN-O application.

As a web-based tool, GEN-O, is designed to function across all NHS organisations, offering its benefits to all patients and referrers.

A collaborative effort, the project brings together MFT, the NHS North West Genomic Medicine Service Alliance (NW GMSA), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), and Answer Digital.

Answer Digital supports organisations to use technology to improve their operations and were appointed by the NW GMSA, to support the project.

Their work included undertaking feasibility studies as part of a discovery work with Salford Royal, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, as well as Alder Hey NHS Foundation Trust, to understand how the technology could be scaled across these organisations, understanding the “pain points” experienced by clinicians, visualising them and then translating them into practical solutions.

Answer Digital implemented information governance processes across pilot sites, including a ‘review and approve’ cycle, in line with each Trust’s processes, ensuring that the roll out of GEN-O is clinically safe, compliant with data security standards and cause minimal disruption to patient care.

Trials are currently underway at selected sites, building upon discovery work that found GEN-O’s potential to streamline processes within neurological and paediatric pathways.

GEN-O has also supported the ongoing pharmacogenomics clinical trials, as part of the Pharmacogenetics Roll Out – Gauging Response to Service (PROGRESS) programme which seeks to establish the feasibility of providing an NHS-wide diagnostic service to identify genetic changes associated with commonly prescribed drugs.

The ongoing trials aim to increase the accessibility of the tool to a wider range of professionals, enabling the project team to scale the use of GEN-O to multiple NHS trusts, piloting the platform at Alder Hey NHS Foundation Trust, and Salford Royal, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust and expand the use of GEN-O to include neurology and paediatric pathways.

It will also standardise data processes across the North West, enabling better treatment decisions and translate clinical needs into tangible solutions, such as bringing cancer functionality into GEN-O.

There are also plans to develop an Application Programming Interface (API). This is an exciting prospect, given GEN-O’s ability to integrate data from Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Portal, supporting a full genomic record.

The app will also reduce time spent on admin by up to 70 per cent, enabling faster decision making.

Further integration work is in progress, allowing seamless collaboration between geographically dispersed health systems, efficient data sharing across family members, and enabling innovation through data analytics.

David McCormick, Chair of the NHS North West Genomic Medicine Service Alliance Patient and Public Voice Panel (PPV) said: “As a patient of Professor Black, and Chair of the Alliance’s PPVP, it is reassuring to know that via GEN-O, my genomic information is available to those involved in my care, quickly, efficiently and most importantly securely, so that I continue to receive the best care management and support”.

Paul Wye, Healthcare Delivery Principal, Answer Digital, added: “By standardising the GEN-O tool and making it possible to scale its use, the potential to improve genomic medicine in North West England is huge.

“We are really proud to be a part of such important work with the NW GMSA, MFT, and the NIHR Manchester BRC, and look forward to seeing the project unfold and show other organisations across the NHS what is possible.”

Upon completion of the trials, a comprehensive assessment of GEN-O will be conducted to better understand its potential impact on genomic testing, data sharing and multi-disciplinary, cross-speciality collaboration.

The project not only showcases technological innovation but also highlights the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders in advancing genomic medicine services, setting a precedent for enhanced patient care in the North West and beyond.

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