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Working in partnership was the only way through the pandemic

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Denis Lafitte, director of technology and innovation at King’s Facilities Management, tells Health Tech World about the importance of partnership and how this helped radiologists transition to home reporting at the start of the coronavirus emergency.

Just hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in March 2020, discussions had been accelerating about moving medical imaging technology to the cloud on a significant scale in London.

King’s Facilities Management, also known as KFM, which provides support services for hospitals across King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and beyond, had been engaged in detailed strategic discussion with the Trust’s imaging technology provider Sectra.

But with a national emergency unfolding, the focus shifted overnight. One urgent priority was to enable staff to work remotely at a time when social distancing and self-isolation would create workforce challenges. This was certainly the case for staff in radiology, a department that plays a vital role in the assessment of infected patients.

Responding to the urgent need

KFM immediately worked with the Radiology Department to allow staff to continue to work effectively from home – and to continue to report on a whole range of diagnostic imaging – from x-rays and MRI scans, through to CT scans, mammography imaging and much more.

Doing so meant deploying dozens of workstations to people’s homes. But this was more complex than simply shipping devices and monitors to addresses.

It required sourcing workstations at a time of high demand. A workstation is a sizeable piece of specialist equipment, with a computer, two large screens for reporting and microphone – an expensive piece of kit costing thousands of pounds.

We then had to manage installation, calibration, training and insurance, whilst new processes had to be created for support services.

Integrating home working solutions is also a big task in itself – we had to ensure the set up met radiologists’ requirements so that they were confident working from home.

In total a 30 per cent increase in workstations was quickly facilitated, with 62 radiologist stations and six mammo stations rapidly deployed, the latter requiring denser screens and National Breast Screening System [NBSS] integration. We also redeployed 18 ordinary workstations to homes. All of this was done to complement patterns of remote working and split shifts to best support COVID safety.

Doing this effectively required partnership – and Sectra played an important role in that partnership, responsively moving with us from the earlier mentioned planned activity around cloud to dealing with the new and immediate challenge being faced.

Supporting workstation provision is perhaps not Sectra’s core business, but recognising our need to rapidly respond to a problem, the organisation went out of its way to provide advice and support to help us make this urgent requirement become a reality.

Importantly, Sectra’s imaging platform itself supported the transition of crucial functions into people’s homes. But more than that, the response from the team at Sectra, who were straight away open to accommodating us, was just as important.

We were advised by the team if we were making the right technical decisions. They were immediately available to advise us on matters around architecture, for example.

This project was something new for us – very quickly moving the established set-up from the hospital environment to the home environment. Our conversations with Sectra were key to making sure what we were doing would work.

Key to agility

I spend my life working with software vendors. Partnering sounds like an easy thing. But it is not always the case with commercial organisations.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that agility is important in supporting critical services. And when we turned to Sectra for support it was there. There was no discussion around paperwork or contractual scope.

Thanks to our collaboration and partnership we managed to get the task at hand done in a very short period of time. This is about working together towards a common goal: helping clinicians deliver the best care for patients.

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