Dutch cardiology network enables real-time consultations

Report: John Brosky

Physicians connected with the Friesland Regional Cardiology Network can now consult in real- time with specialists at the regional medical centre to determine the best course of treatment for their patients. The cardiology network not only speeds up the referral process and improves both diagnosis and the clinical decision process, but also is credited with reducing the length of stay for in-patients by, on average, one or two days.

Cardiologist Marcel van der Linde, sending images for consultation from his...
Cardiologist Marcel van der Linde, sending images for consultation from his office in the Nij Smellinghe Hospital, Drachten
Jan Brouwer, cardiologist at the Medical Centre Leeuwarden, receiving images...
Jan Brouwer, cardiologist at the Medical Centre Leeuwarden, receiving images for consultation.

Previously, cardiologists in the region typically referred their patients to the Medical Centre Leeuwarden (MCL) where more than 1,450 percutaneous coronary interventions, 750 open-heart surgeries, 2,100 coronary angiographies and 40 percutaneous aortic valve replacements are performed annually.
Until recently patient records and images were shuttled back and forth between referring centres and LCL on compact discs sent by courier, as attachments to emails, or when possible by fax.

At the end of 2007 the MCL began a six-month pilot programme to test the electronic exchange of data between the cardiology systems at MCL and those at the Nij Smelling hospital in Drachten using an open architecture for image sharing developed by the user-driven organisation Integrating the Healthcare En-terprise (IHE).

By the end of 2009, the third and final phase of implementation connected other hospitals in the region to the cardiology network. Adapting legacy systems and image archives to the IHE protocols, to avoid an in-vestment in new systems, was achieved using products developed by Forcare B.V. in Zeist.

Today, from office workstations, cardiologists can consult on advanced clinical images provided by any hos-pital linked to the network. Once uploaded to the cardiology network, records remain available for consultation at any time so that previous episodes of a patient’s care can be consulted in detail, no matter where the care was provided in the region.

Recognising the success of the information exchange in the regional cardiology network, hospitals in the region are currently planning an expansion to other practice areas using IHE architecture.


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