Medical scan record that the NHS says will cost £2k to retrieve: Detail

DSR-TIFF file, unique software, MOD drive no longer made


A hospital trust says it will cost the NHS £2,000 to dig out a copy of a patient's ultrasound scan of his heart and hand it over to him. The steep bill is, we're told, due to the data being held on a magneto-optical disc, and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust would need to fly in kit from America to access it.

The figure emerged after Andrew Brown asked to see the echocardiogram of his ticker, which was taken eight years ago. He was told that although the scan is still on file in the Worcestershire Royal hospital, it will cost a couple of grand to recreate the data as an image because it is stored in a format that can no longer be read by the hospital's computers.

The trust said Brown has a written record of his scan results from 2004, and that only his recent heart scans are medically important. Brown, who doesn't want to foot the four-figure bill, told the BBC:

"I wanted a copy of this one for my own records and to compare it with one I had done in January last year. It's my right."

In a statement, the trust said:

We do have the visual data on file but the cost of generating an image from what is now obsolete technology is not a cost-effective use of public money.

The Reg understands the trust has now appealed to the Information Commissioner's Office to find out whether or not it has to stump the cash for unearthing the scan.

"We haven't said we'll charge him, we haven't said we won't do it, that's just us informing him of how much it will cost," a hospital spokeswoman told The Register.

Digging into the technology, the scan is stored in a DSR-TIFF format that is only readable by a specific build of Philips Xcelera software, and it will require a magneto-optical disc (MOD) drive. Philips UK no longer has that particular disc drive in stock because it is out of production, so it would have to buy one in from America. The manufactuer quoted a price of £2,000 to the trust as the cost of sourcing this MOD unit.

The hospital spokeswoman told El Reg that the old scans are not medically useful:

"In the event that any patient requires future treatment all clinical decisions and treatment are based on diagnostic tests undertaken at the time of admittance and as required rather than from historical records." ®


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