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Richard Craven 9 December 2021 Blog
This article is available in: English

Looking back, moving forward

Richard Craven, chief executive of CliniSys UK, reviews 2021 and considers how the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the rapid formation of pathology networks will impact the company in 2022. He also pauses to unwrap a ‘Christmas present’; the VUE diagnostic console that enables clinicians to report and view test results alongside many other sources of patient information.

Looking back at 2021

Two themes that dominated 2020 have continued to make their impact felt in 2021. The first, of course, is the Covid-19 pandemic.

While we have been fortunate not to see a repeat of the crisis that we faced when the novel coronavirus arrived in the UK, we have seen repeated waves of infection that have continued to put pressure on the NHS and its laboratories.

To support the ongoing need for mass-testing, we have made investments in our Integrated Clinical Environment, or ICE, so care homes and similar settings can order tests and receive results through the ICE Portal and testing centres of all kinds can send results by SMS.

This has started to extend ICE to tests that are more consumer focused than clinician driven; and I expect that to be a major trend for the future. The second theme is the formation of pathology networks, which is now proceeding at pace.

A significant number of these new pathology networks have chosen WinPath Enterprise as their single laboratory information system and we have had a phenomenal year on the back of that.

In January, we were able to announce our largest contract to date, at the West Yorkshire Association of Acute Trusts or WYATT. While, as I write, the news that Scarborough Hull York Pathology Services will also use WinPath Enterprise to support its innovative, distributed network model is running on health and tech websites.

Between these two dates, we also secured a major contract from Health and Social Care Northern Ireland. That is exciting because it will see WinPath Enterprise deployed at all five health and social care trusts in the region, and because it will be the first deployment of our new genomics LIMS, GLIMS Genomics.

It’s hard to believe that we only launched the system into the UK in January; and we have already secured our first customer in the regional genetics service in Belfast.

Ending the year in a strong position

Our next task will be to deploy to these new customers. Fortunately, we have developed a great deployment methodology and we have the people we need to deliver on the ground.

We went into the year with just over 200 people, and we will be coming out of it with just under 300 (and plans to recruit more). Across the CliniSys Group, including our European business, we have just over 600 people, all of them devoted to diagnostic IT; and I don’t think there is another vendor that can say that.

As an employer, the blended working that we introduced at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has become business as usual. Our offices in Chertsey and Glasgow are well-used as meet-up spaces, but people prefer blended working as it reduces commuting and gives them a better work-life balance.

Perhaps more surprisingly, a lot of our delivery is now undertaken remote-only as well. Two years ago, I don’t think we would have thought that would be a possibility, but it is.

Unwrapping a Christmas present

It’s not just ICE that has received significant investment. WinPath Enterprise has also come on apace. This year, we launched our Specimen Processing module, and we already have three sites live with it. Specimen Processing is designed to track any physical sample, anywhere.

It is also our first mature app in the cloud and one that shows the benefits of the architecture that we have been developing. In future, our LIMS will be an evergreen product built using a microservices approach. That will make it much easier to upgrade and customise modules, without the significant downtime or user acceptance testing that a traditional architecture can require.

As we move into the festive season, we have also been unwrapping our Christmas present for pathology. This is an entirely new product on which we have been collaborating with Sunquest Information Services, called VUE.

VUE is a diagnostic console that can be configured by the user to bring together the many strands of data that pathologists and clinicians need to make decisions. That might be test results, or genomics data, or images, or information from the electronic patient record.

In the softest of soft launches, it has gone down a storm. We can see many uses for VUE: from supporting more effective multi-disciplinary team meetings, to enabling pathologists and clinicians to work and collaborate across networks and geographical areas to enable the speedy and accurate diagnosis of disease.

Looking ahead to 2022, and beyond

As we move into 2022, we all hope we will finally see the end of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions; although the emergence of the Omicron variant shows we can’t say for certain that we will. But whatever happens, the focus for CliniSys will be ensuring our products remain relevant and we continue to deliver implementations at scale.

We will also deliver VUE in Q3/4 and then continue to enhance it further. Another interesting area that our customers want is a data play. There’s huge amounts of data created to support the operating of laboratories, pathology networks and integrated care systems. How can this data be mined and what inferences can be drawn from it?

That could be looking at the pattern of tests being conducted, to help labs manage demand, or at the conditions for which they are being conducted, to help ICSs assess disease prevalence and whether new services are needed.

In the longer-term again, I think we’ll see a further expansion of the consumer-driven testing that I mentioned earlier. The concept of a ‘lab on a chip’ has been difficult to realise, but I’m sure it will happen, at least to some degree.

At CliniSys, we continue to review and evolve our business in line with these developments. The extension of some of the themes that we have been working through over the past two-years is more point of care testing, more automation, and more computational pathology.

ICE and WinPath Enterprise put us at the forefront of the first two developments, while VUE puts us at the table in terms of curating information and creating tools to help pathologists and clinicians to make the best possible elucidation and treatment decisions for patients.