Integration of XERO™ with Teams enables sharing of images
January 28, 2021
The groundbreaking integration of Agfa HealthCare’s XERO™ viewer with Microsoft Teams is being marketed to hospitals in Canada and around the world following a successful pilot at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, England.
Developed at Agfa HealthCare’s global development centre in Waterloo, Ontario, the integration allows doctors to share diagnostic images from XERO viewer and consult with specialists in real time on their smartphones, tablets or desktops.
The integration with Microsoft Teams leverages the collaboration functionality in the robust XERO viewer, according to Paul Lipton, Agfa’s global solutions manager, strategic integrations and enterprise viewing, whose Waterloo-based team conceived and developed the XERO viewer.
Doctors aren’t using the XERO viewer all day, so its collaboration functionality isn’t always available, he explained. Microsoft Teams, on the other hand, is accessible anywhere, anytime on mobile devices and desktops.
“When we think about how people share information, it’s really important that we use a channel that everyone else is using,” said Lipton. “Given that the entire National Health Service in the U.K. has adopted Teams, it makes no sense for every individual piece of software to have its own communication platform. That just leads to notification fatigue. To prevent it, you need to be able to get all of your notifications in one place.”
Mike Benol, Agfa’s vice-president, strategic partnerships, describes the integration as “location agnostic.” It’s no longer necessary for a physician requiring a consult to go looking for a specialist. The image is instantly shared through Microsoft Teams by simply clicking on a button within the XERO viewer and selecting a pre-defined channel, or team, of experts.
“The integration eliminates the scenario of having to track down a colleague in a large hospital, speak to them, ask them to log in to the viewer, then review it and respond,” explains Benol.
“I worked on the integration over a week in late November 2019 and demonstrated a proof of concept at the Radiology Society of North America’s annual meeting the following month,” recalled Lipton. “We were just starting to think about developing it as a product, then COVID hit.”
Recognizing the value of offering its customers a tool that could speed consults when hospitals are deluged with COVID patients, Agfa accelerated the development of the integration and offered it to Princess Alexandra Hospital in April.
“That month alone they had 160 COVID-19 deaths, unfortunately” recalled Peter Wilkop, Agfa’s senior product marketing manager, enterprise imaging.
A COVID button was added to the navigation bar in the XERO viewer and programmed to transmit the image to a “channel” of predetermined specialists, including pulmonologists and infectious disease experts. As doctors began using the integration, channels were added for critical care and cardiology specialists. Other channels for ophthalmology, dermatology, and vascular cases are also being contemplated.
The critical care channel, for example, is used when a patient’s condition is worsening and an attending physician needs to consult quickly with critical care specialists to decide on a transfer to the ICU.
“We calculate that if we could save 10 minutes per consult, over the period of a year that could translate into a saving of 75 days or 2.5 man months,” said Wilkop. “It could even be life-saving if the patient has COVID-19 and is placed in quarantine before infecting someone else.”
Physicians requesting a consult can tag specific members of the channel to review an image. If they fail to respond, the request can be escalated via email and repeated notifications.
Physicians participating in a consult can view the images and communicate with each other using audio, video and chat. Also available is a markup tool allowing them to interact with the images using their cursor and share the markups in real-time.
“The XERO viewer is used in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and parts of British Columbia and Quebec,” added Lisa Shoniker, Canadian regional vice president of sales. “That’s why the integration is so powerful for Canada.”
It’s a good example of the innovation in healthcare that has been triggered by the pandemic, said Microsoft’s Andrew Graley, senior industry manager for healthcare.
“Some of our customers in healthcare are seeing three, four, or five years worth of transformation happening in a matter of months. Teams is revolutionizing the way we’re collaborating. It brings everything together that you’d expect in a collaboration tool. It helps organizations empower their users to get the right information to the right people at the right time in a secure environment.”
Agfa HealthCare is initially marketing the integration to its Canadian XERO viewer customers currently using Microsoft Teams. Installation is via a plug-in, with no downtime or interruption to viewer use. “Our customers, “ said Shoniker, “value the ability to speed patient care through rapid sharing of information, thanks to a simple but powerful plug-in.”