Roundup: Cyber-attacks, COVID-19 test results, care homes and more briefs

Also, commercial results of the national testing programme in this week's Healthcare IT News roundup.
By Sophie Porter
08:05 AM

CARE HOME INTERNET

With up to 50% of care homes eligible for upgraded internet, NHSX and NHS Digital are working to secure better internet connections in care homes. They are partnering with telecommunications companies to provide guidance on low-cost options available to accommodate fast access to communications services for GPs and doctors, telehealth platforms and social platforms for patients to communicate with family and friends.

The advice delineates the three components to consider as: internet connectivity, such as broadband and ethernet; internal networks that ensure wide coverage; and available devices suitable for pairing.


TEST DATA ‘BLACKHOLE’

Results of commercial tests undertaken by the National Testing Programme (NTP), which should be contributing to data on COVID-19 cases in local NHS organisations, is “increasingly becoming unavailable,” according to an internal email seen by HSJ. Recent government testing figures suggest that data from almost two thirds of tests undertaken in recent days are unavailable locally, hindering measures to contain, trace and treat the virus.

One director of public health called it a “complete data vacuum.” The testing system has also been criticised as not having a clear structure nor meeting set targets. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman responded later by saying the loss of data was due to a technical error that has now been fixed.


CORONAVIRUS CYBER-ATTACKS

Interserve and Bam Construct - construction companies that helped build the emergency Nightingale Hospitals in Birmingham and Yorkshire & Humber - both reported incidences of cyber-attacks this month. Bam Construct described the attack as “significant,” while Interserve have been working with the National Cyber Security Centre to “contain and remedy the situation” after some “some operational services may be affected.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said cyber-attacks were “seeking to undermine the global response to this unprecedented global health crisis endanger lives.”


COVID-19 TESTING IN CARE HOMES

The UK government has launched an online portal that improves access to COVID-19 testing in care homes in England. Through the portal you can apply to get test kits sent for staff or residents, regardless of whether there have been any confirmed cases reported already. The portal is open to care home managers registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or are a local director of public health.

In order to apply, you must supply the care home’s CQC registration number, total number of residents, total staff and your contact details. Currently, the portal is only open to homes that care for older people or those suffering from dementia.


REMOTE CARE HOME MONITORING

Spirit Digital offers their CliniTouch Vie remote monitoring system to care homes in the UK in response to the NHS’ call for increased clinical support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The service is designed to remotely connect carers and nurses with their patients’ GPs, facilitating secured, up-to-date records of patients’ vital signs and other clinical data. The platform enables GPs to triage patients more efficiently and care staff to access appropriate medical advice so they can provide better support for their patients without the need for a doctor’s visit.


AUTOMATED MESSAGING SERVICE LAUNCHED FOR COVID-19 TEST RESULTS

NHS Dumfries and Galloway have responded to concerns about the turnaround of COVID-19 test results by launching an automated messaging service in partnership with Netcall, which securely updates users as new data is released. As testing capabilities are being ramped up in the UK, this service will relieve additional pressure on administrative staff and is intended to minimise increased phone traffic to NHS hotlines.

An extension of a long-term digital strategy, the service was released in under two weeks. After test results are made available to the Netcall Patient Hub Result module, the patient receives an SMS leading them to a secured results page. There has already been a 60% uptake among patients locally since the service’s release in early April.


CANCER IMAGING TECH YIELDS FAST RESULTS

University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust in the UK have innovated their CT scan imaging systems so that colonography patients can access their results faster. The picture archiving and communications system (PACS) by Sectra Imaging IT Solutions was introduced to the trust in 2017 and has successfully been used to inform radiologists and referring clinicians of CTC scan results as the procedure is taking place, accelerating diagnoses of colorectal cancer. The technology also speeds up release of cancer-free patients often by weeks.

The success of this pilot scheme could be beneficial as 98% of trusts are struggling to meet reporting requirements and NHS England and NHS Improvement push through a 2020 target for patients to be told whether they have cancer.


WELSH COVID-19 DATA HUB

NHS Wales Informatics Service have launched a new data hub that keeps track of the NHS Wales COVID-19 response. Data is collected from disparate sources such as hospitals, GP surgeries, NHS 111 and NHS Direct Wales call centres to provide leaders and decision-makers with an accurate picture of the pandemic in Wales. This thorough account of the virus is intended to inform future decisions regarding the pandemic, including staffing, resources and emergency department capacity.

Rebecca Cook, informatics service head of information design and standards, said: “All the data is held in our secure data warehouse, with the highest standards of data protection.” The data is anonymised and the hub, which is being constantly updated and developed, does not provide access to patient-level data.