Glasgow embraces ehealth revolution

Tuesday 9th July 2019

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde is working with a range of partners to be at the forefront of developing algorithms which can allow computers to scan images for anomalies in biopsies and tissue samples.

This is just one of the many areas technology is helping to speed up the diagnosis process: NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC) is also keen to enable the use of digital imaging, rather than using glass slides and microscopes, so  samples can then be viewed on a computer, helping to separate more serious scans from more routine ones, therefore improving efficiency.

According to William Edwards, NHSGGC's director of ehealth, this involves computers learning how clinicians work.

"There is a whole exercise underway now with ourselves and other partners to make sure that we can train the algorithms to read these images going forward.

 "In the same way as a pathologist, the algorithm needs to understand when additional information is required or when to zoom into images, and where they might make decisions based on the information presented.

 “Overall, the goal is to increase the turnaround times for pathology results so that patients can get faster diagnoses and treatment.”

This builds on work already taking place as part of the newly developed Attend Anywhere (NHS Near Me) service which offers remote video consultations to pregnant women in Argyll.

The mums-to-be have consultations with consultant obstetricians from the Royal Alexandra Hospital maternity unit through video-link, joined by their local midwife who has already carried out routine blood pressure and urine tests, meaning any anomalies can be flagged up to the obstetrician by the midwife.

Remote video consultations are also taking place with some patients in Campbelltown Hospital where a remote video-link service is offered for orthopaedic patients to specialist orthopeadic consultants located more than 135 miles away in Glasgow.

As well as saving time, video consultations are also cutting the number of missed appointments.

Another ehealth initiative is offering patients suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)  home remote-monitored non-invasive ventilation (NIV) that has already demonstrated benefits including reducing hospital admissions.

With approximately 129,000 people in Scotland experiencing exacerbations of COPD, it is the second most common cause of emergency hospital admissions, and it is hoped this initiative will reduce the number of unscheduled admissions.

Dr Chris Carlin, a respiratory consultant at Gartnavel General Hospital, treats patients diagnosed with COPD every day and was part of the initial pilot recruiting 42 patients.

He said: "Results from the pilot showed a significant reduction in both hospital admissions and hospital bed days among the participants."