Considered one of the biggest digital change projects in NSW Health, the roll out of the state-wide Radiology Information Systems and Picture Archiving and Communications System (RIS-PACS) has continued unabated during COVID lockdowns.
An essential initiative in ensuring medical imaging services remain active during these difficult times, RIS-PACS aims to improve patient care by providing clinicians with access to complete imaging histories, comparison images and reports.
Purpose of RIS-PACS
RIS-PACS stores key information, digital images and results which are accessible to hospital-based treating teams state-wide. In simple terms, it means a patient’s journey can be tracked from image requisition, through to diagnosis almost instantly.
With Sydney in the midst of a 106-day lockdown, a solution was needed to allow the project to continue without putting local clinicians at risk. To deliver RIS-PACS on the Mid-North Coast and in Northern NSW, the Sydney based team increased remote support.
They also setup a virtual remote support station onsite, a laptop or tablet that staff on the ground at Northern NSW hospitals could access, and it all worked seamlessly well.
“We’re very appreciative of the thorough governance structures that have enabled two high risk projects, being the changeover of an ageing RIS-PACS system and going live in the midst of COVID,” Northern NSW LHD district medical imaging manager Paul Green said.
Describing the process as nothing short of impressive, he called out how the team were able to achieve outcomes and maintain access to tech experts despite restrictions for on-site staff.
“The project team, in conjunction with the vendor, have developed virtual support contingencies using remote access, portable IT hardware and comprehensive pre training. These were tailored to our site requirements enabling the project to go ahead, irrespective of COVID restrictions.”
The original plan had been a full on-site approach, with the vendor, eHealth NSW and the Local Health Districts, working together on the ground to implement the system. COVID and the State Government’s lockdown, which kicked off in late July, put paid to that.
Working together with the project’s steering committee and the LHDs, the team came up with everything from a 24/7 support phone number, to online guides, and even remote vendor support via a single secure terminal that kept patient data safe.
The dynamic solution is being constantly reviewed and has helped implement RIS-PACS in 17 hospitals across the region. Work on the Mid-North Coast has been completed, with the system operational.
The project continues to be implemented in Northern NSW and will be completed in the coming weeks.
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