New digital tool to help clinicians could save millions of pounds and facilitate faster diagnosis

Tuesday 6 September 2022

iRefer CDS (Clinical Decision Support), is an innovative, cloud-based software tool that helps doctors, specifically, clinicians, request the most appropriate imaging investigation – such as MRI or CT. It provides up-to-date guidance on a range of clinical problems at the point of care and could save the NHS millions of pounds a year. 

iRefer CDS is currently being rolled out to 34 NHS Trusts in England with plans for more to follow. The rollout has been made possible as part of the £248m fund from the Department of Health and Social care to modernise diagnostics.   

iRefer’s evidence-based guidelines help referring clinicians select the best imaging test for a specific diagnosis or clinical issue. 

Milton Keynes University Hospitals NHS Trust, who was the first Trust in England to implement iRefer CDS in secondary care, saw the software recommend that the referring clinician change or cancel an inappropriate referral for imaging in 8.4% of cases. Using FY21-22 data, iRefer CDS also has the potential to save approximately 220 hours of radiology workforce time annually with the implementation of a semi-automated vetting workflow using the CDS appropriateness ratings. Ordering the correct scan, the first time around, can protect the patient from unnecessary radiation exposure, as well as delays in care or unnecessary trips to the hospital. 

Clinical Radiology is chronically understaffed, with a shortfall of 1,669 consultant radiologists. Reducing the time they spend reviewing inappropriate referral requests frees them up, significantly improving capacity, which is in short supply. 

iRefer CDS has been developed by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) and their preferred CDS partner, MedCurrent, a physician-founded CDS company, providing innovative solutions to the healthcare industry. The CDS solution is an evolution of the publication of the NICE accredited, iRefer guidelines, which have been compiled by the RCR since 1989.  

Dr Jeanette Dickson, President of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: “Radiology is under severe pressure because of chronic understaffing and the COVID-19 backlog. Tools like iRefer CDS can improve patient outcomes as well as saving money and the time of our clinical colleagues. This is good news all-round.” 

Penny Storr, Network Director at the East Midlands Imaging Network, a partnership of eight NHS Trusts providing radiology services across the region, said:  

“We are delighted to be working with the Royal College of Radiologists and MedCurrent on the iRefer tool across our region and we are looking forward to seeing the benefits that it will give in supporting requests for scans.” 

Dr Steve Herman, MedCurrent CEO, said: “The iRefer guidelines from the Royal College of Radiologists are of world-leading quality and are recognized globally as such. We are very pleased to have been selected by the RCR to bring them to practicing physicians via our software tools”