Case study: Digital Autopsy by iGene

With the demand for digital autopsies rapidly increasing, iGene needed a resilient, responsive, personable and high-performance service to enable its radiologists to easily review, analyse and report on data stored centrally - and this is why they chose aql.

iGene is the only dedicated company in the UK providing an effective, efficient, respectful, appropriate, timely and professional Digital Autopsy service to the Office of Her Majesty’s Coroner and bereaved families. iGene continues to expand the service into new areas of the UK using the proven method of service provision of advanced, ground-breaking medical imaging technology utilising iGene’s proprietary visualisation software.

Over 200,000 deaths each year require further medical or legal investigation and the majority result in invasive post-mortem procedures, adding further stress at an already emotional time. But in over 70 per cent of cases, digital autopsy provides a more sympathetic alternative.

Supporting rapid expansion

In 2013, iGene launched in the UK with a physical site in Sheffield. The site was intended to include computed tomography (CT) scanners alongside the iGene software and radiologists to review the results. However, the iGene team struggled to recruit enough radiologists to run the service effectively. The team had a re-think and architectured a virtual model whereby physical locations would be used to enable CT scans, but the data would be stored in a centralised data centre, from which it could be accessed by radiologists working virtually throughout the country via virtual private network (VPN).

However, this model had challenges. The data captured from the CT scanners was very large, at up to 4 GB per person, and iGene’s sites were often in temporary locations separated from existing fibre lines. In addition, the iGene team needed a secure and resilient data centre to store the medical data taken from the CT scanners.

“Unlike traditional autopsies, a Digital Autopsy potentially eliminates the need for the scalpel. Instead the process is carried out on a computer, in two stages. First the body is scanned using a CT scanner. The data is then processed to create a detailed 3D whole body reconstruction. Specially trained radiologists and pathologists can then examine the visual to look for clues as to the cause of death. With the scans being data heavy we needed a secure and resilient data centre to hold the sensitive information,” comments Tony Healy, CTO at iGene.

With a number of connectivity solutions, iGene turned to aql to provide reliable internet access to iGene’s physical sites. We deliver Gigabit fibre to iGene’s physical locations enabling data from the CT scans to be shared with leading radiologists across the country for analysis and review.

Enabling a quick solution

When setting up the Preston site, iGene faced tight deadlines to fulfil a local authority contract, so the aql team implemented a 4G Data SIM solution to provide the site with a temporary, and quick turnaround, internet connection before the fibre lines were installed. This enabled iGene to set up quickly without any impact on their service.

iGene uses aql’s central Leeds based data centre to store their servers which house the critical data. The organisation's radiologists can access this data via a secure VPN. The organisation also uses our intelligent hands service so that change requests can be handled by the aql data centre team without the need for iGene staff to travel.

It has also set up direct VPN communication for direct access to the IEP data sharing framework from SECTRA allowing the team to receive CT scan data directly from NHS hospitals.

Resilient, responsive and high-performance service

“In order to support a virtual model that enables radiologists to review, analyse and report on data stored centrally, we required a telecoms partner that could support us in offering a resilient, responsive, personable and high-performance service. Whether it be providing internet connectivity to colocation services, aql have been a great partner for iGene. By understanding our business and our challenges, and with strong account management and service, they’ve helped bring our model to life,” continues Healy.

iGene have expanded and alongside its Sheffield site (servicing Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham), now have physical locations in Preston (servicing Preston, Lancaster, Blackburn, Blackburn Darwen, Whiston and Blackpool), Sandwell (servicing Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Birmingham) and Stoke (servicing Stoke, Nottingham, South Staffordshire, Lincolnshire), with ambitions to grow further into a national service over the next few years using their virtual model.