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Digital Healthcare Software is used in Pioneering Study of Treatment for Blindness

An innovative software system developed by Digital Healthcare, a Cambridge company that is the UK’s leading supplier of ophthalmology software, is being used in a pioneering study to monitor the impact of new healthcare treatments in ophthalmology.

In a unique partnership with three image reading centres located in The Queen’s University of Belfast, St Paul’s Eye Unit, Liverpool and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, the company’s Clinical Trials iP software will enable healthcare staff to analyse digital images of the retina gathered from some 3,000 patients per annum, over the next four years, in 50 regional eye units across the UK.

The results from this study will be used to measure the effectiveness of a specialist drug and laser therapy (Verteporfin Photodynamic Therapy) as a treatment for patients suffering from “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease of the retina that is a common cause of blindness. The nationwide study could also serve as a model for future programmes to monitor healthcare treatments.

The Clinical Trials iP software is a sophisticated electronic platform that combines the capacity to handle the huge volumes of imaging data captured to diagnose and treat “wet” AMD, with an electronic patient care management system. After reading centre staff have used the system to import thousands of retinal images, they can electronically transfer the data between a network of computers for grading using a secure telemessaging facility.

Professor Usha Chakravarthy of the Centre for Vision Science at Queen’s University, Belfast and Ophthalmic Consultant at Belfast’s Royal Hospitals, is one of the lead clinical investigators involved in delivering treatment for patients with “wet” AMD.

Professor Chakravarthy said: “This is a defining moment in the introduction of new technologies in that it will provide robust findings on the long-term benefits of verteporfin photodynamic therapy for the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration, which afflicts several thousand older adults annually.”

So far, over 5,000 images or angiograms from over 3,000 patients have been submitted in digital and film formats from the 50 regional treatment centres to the Central Angiographic Resource Facility (CARF) in Belfast and imported into Digital Healthcare’s Clinical Trials iP software.

Dr Liam Patton of Queen’s University, Belfast and a manager at the CARF, said: “A key strength of the Clinical Trials iP software is that it enables images captured from a variety of sources to be standardised and graded on a common platform. We can accept angiograms from almost any ophthalmic imaging system in use in the UK, and we also import film images. We can then use a secure electronic telemessaging system to transfer the images to the Reading Centres for grading.

The software has eliminated the need to use paper-based systems previously used for this type of work. During the grading process there are a multitude of tools available to assist grading staff in arriving at their decisions, including grids, circles and measurement tools so that graders can manipulate and compare images. The software also includes a built-in facility to highlight “urgent” patients so that they can be promptly graded and their results transferred to a treatment centre for further investigations.”

Nick Nightingale, Applications Director at Digital Healthcare, said: “We are delighted to have been selected to provide the software for this groundbreaking study that will generate vital information to improve treatments for patients suffering from AMD, and which could also serve as a model for the assessment of new healthcare technologies.

We have worked closely with the CARF and the three reading centres to test and perfect the Clinical Trials iP software. Healthcare staff now have a fully-automated, electronic information system that can perform a multitude of tasks from importing a range of images, distributing them for grading and managing the selection and quality assurance processes, right through to sending the data results to the Department of Public Health Policy in London.”

Margaret Henry | alfa
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