UltraCardiac, a Plymouth-based private provider of ultrasound echocardiograms – has been able to assist the local NHS Trust to significantly reduce outpatient waiting times for an echocardiogram by more than 75%, from 16 weeks down to 3 weeks.
In 2017, experienced NHS echocardiographer, Sean Gundry, set up UltraCardiac with his wife Sarah, who has a career background in banking. They saw there was a significant need in their home area of East Cornwall and West Devon for a more streamlined and connected pathway for outpatients who urgently required echocardiograms.
Prior to the Gundrys setting up UltraCardiac, if the NHS and private providers locally needed to view, report or share scans, it was common practice to burn the patient scans on to CDs or memory sticks, as the files were too large to email. These CDs and memory sticks were then sent to the relevant cardiologist or healthcare professional who uploaded the
images on the appropriate imaging system to be reviewed.
With a national shortage of qualified echocardiographers, and an increase in the demand for an echo, outpatient waiting times grew to an average, 16 weeks – much longer than the national guidelines. The lengthy process of sharing the images between primary and secondary providers, would often mean they were not available when patients went to hospital for a follow up appointment resulting in scans being repeated. This convoluted process contributed to an additional burden on NHS staff, resources and patient waiting times.
The idea to launch UltraCardiac emanated from the desire to help address these problems and ultimately provide better patient care. From the company’s inception in 2017, the Gundrys realised they needed to address the biggest obstacle which was to simplify the way images were stored, reviewed and shared between internal and external healthcare providers. After an extensive review of various system providers, the Gundrys decided to break the mould and opt for a cloud-based PACS solution, UltraLinq. They found utilising the cloud-based UltraLinq platform, allowed their sonographers to seamlessly capture, store and share all of the patient’s echo results within minutes.
UltraLinq also allows the in-house sonographers to instantly view the scans in diagnostic quality and write the NHS compliant patient report with a summary of findings. As part of the UltraCardiac Quality Assured service, every report is peer reviewed before being shared. Once completed, the full patient report and scans can then be reviewed via a secure link by the patient’s GP or clinical care team. Remarkably, within two months of the launch of UltraCardiac, local NHS secondary care outpatient echo waiting times reduced from 16 weeks to 6 weeks. Two years on, UltraCardiac provides private and NHS outpatient echos for the entire region – amounting to over 200 patient scans per week – and impressively, outpatient waiting times are currently down to just 3 weeks.
As well as running a clinic from its Plymouth base, UltraCardiac has started to provide a community focused echocardiogram service, visiting local GP practices and community hospitals so more patients can have their heart checked close to home. With the freedom of a cloud-based UltraLinq platform, the company can provide identical levels of service delivery from remote outreach locations as from the Plymouth clinic.