The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT) is updating its internet protocol (IP) network over the next two years to enable doctors to share digital images and training resources.
The NHS Trust will replace its old public branch exchange system with a high-speed IP local area network, switching 7,000 phone extensions over to the digital system.
It also intends to take advantage of the capabilities of the IP network by allowing doctors to share digital medical scans such as x-rays.
The first department to benefit was Radiology where doctors have been able to introduce a system for sharing digital versions of x-rays. This system has now been in place for a month.
Because of the geographical spread of the Trust, sharing images between doctors used to be a laborious process, said Dr Peter Rowlands, clinical director of the RLBUHT.
"The new system allows us to access images remotely, so that doctors in other sites can see full versions of the images," he said.
Cable & Wireless is installing the network throughout the Trust. The telco also developed virtual private networks so that the system remains secure.
"Security was one of the key issues for getting the project approved. Sharing images in this way is rather new, so ensuring access was restricted was essential," said Rowlands.
Increased bandwidth will also allow the Trust to extend the use of video conferencing, which will be used in medical training, he added.
The IP network is intended to sit alongside the national programme for digital images. The Picture Archiving and Communications System, currently being rolled out across the NHS as part of the overall IT improvement programme, will allow staff to store and send x-rays and other scans electronically.
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