University of Sheffield Radiology Department

MRI Database

The MRI Database, developed for The University of Sheffield’s Academic Department of Radiology, is our oldest system. The MRI Scanner at The Royal Hallamshire Hospital had been in operation for 3 years and had performed scans on about 1000 patients, when, in 1993 Illuminaries was commissioned to develop a specialist radiology administration system to manage MR scan episodes, appointments, reporting and billing.

Since Autumn 1994, when the first version of the MRI Database went live, the University MRI facility at one time reached five scanners running at four sites across Sheffield, although is currently running 4 scanners at 3 sites. At its peak, the system was handling 12,000 episodes a year and in December 2006 the 100,000’th episode was entered into the database.

The original system designed has undergone one major rewrite (to move from Access to SQL Server database technology), some extensive additions, including a document management system to store scanned request cards and other episode related files, a Clinical Studies module and numerous smaller changes. During this entire period, the system has been supported by the Illuminaries development team, including the original author (with an unparalleled degree of passion)

From the outset, it was designed to provide many pre-built reports for usage statistics as well as a keyword search function but these failed to answer all of the questions posed by hospital administrators and clinicians, particularly once the system was put in use across the city. An ad hoc reporting tool was added to the system, which was partially successful in responding to these issues, but because this was only available on certain user’s desktops, most requests for information were being handled by either the Superintendent Radiographer or the Accounts Clerk. Moreover, with increasing numbers of MR reports stored in the database, the keyword searches were becoming unacceptably slow.

In 2000, a number of key requirements necessary to make best use of the data for clinical and administrative staff were identified, which would enhance the levels of service the Unit could deliver to the Trust. These included:

  • Search tools to be made available on the desk tops of the people who need the information
  • Faster and more flexible keyword searches (comparable to those available on internet search engines)
  • A wider range of general searches – more criteria to select from and drill downs to view details
  • Ability to set up a picture library of ‘interesting’ MR images relating to patient scans, including tools to add textual annotation and run searches against this
  • Where appropriate, the ability to transfer the results of searches into Excel for analysis and to copy pictures into PowerPoint for lectures, presentations, etc.

The solution was a browser based, intranet application, which runs on a web server located in the MRI Unit and utilises the Local and Wide Area Networks within and between the various sites. Results from all types of search are presented as a browser page in a common summary format, which permits drill downs to view details of the scan episode and any associated documents and images stored in the document management system. Results lists are easily copied to Excel, Word or Access and images may be copied and dropped into Word or PowerPoint. Appropriate access control ensures that only authorised people can view confidential patient information.

The MRI Database uses an MS Access front end, running against a SQL Server database. The associated MRI Intranet uses ASP technology running against the same database.

Illuminaries are also responsible for supporting the server, PC and Windows infrastructure for the system and managing backups, which is a somewhat historical accident that came about because the University facility resides within RHH and operates over the Trust’s network.

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    Sylvia Ward, Deputy Chief Executive, Age Concern Sheffield

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