“In my previous role working in teleradiology, I saw first-hand the benefits for doctors to examine scans remotely to help individual patients. But the scale of the interoperability being used to facilitate the CDC’s work is incredible. So, it’s both very exciting and very motivating.”Thomas Spankie, Head of Integration
How has your professional background informed your role at Bleepa?
My career to date has exposed me to a wealth of different healthcare IT systems, use cases and clinical specialties. Being able to work under the hood ensuring systems better communicate with one another to improve care is hugely rewarding work.
Where to start? Well, I did my undergraduate degree in computer games programming – a slight departure from where I ended up, but it gave me a background in coding. After graduating I came down to London to attend a friend’s house party and, well, I never left.
I began applying for roles in the tech field that were related to healthcare, an area that’s always interested me. I got my start working in general practice software, largely in support and problem management roles.
After three years working on primary care systems, I moved into working for a teleradiology company. That’s how I got introduced to medical imaging technologies like PACS and RIS, so that was a strong grounding for the work I do with Bleepa today.
Have you always been knowledgeable about interoperability in healthcare IT systems?
While I knew a little about interoperability and standards like HL7 and FIHR, at the point I began working in teleradiology it was more conceptual, less hands on. So, my work on the platform really helped me cut my teeth on that technology. That was also where I began specialising in integration, connecting different hospitals and working with systems designed for professionals who work together across separate sites.
While there I moved from systems integration to development, working on the platform’s RIS (radiology information system) capabilities. That led to another role in database integration, helping to organise oncology data for a large consultancy organisation – a slight change of speed, but it gave me a thorough insight into using ETL (‘Extract, Transform, Load’) technology.
These experiences have all been instrumental in my work with Bleepa. When I arrived here in November 2020, I had a great opportunity to build some of the interfaces that help systems better integrate with one another today. It was a great opportunity to help create something new as opposed to inheriting a legacy system and working within its constraints.
What are the most common barriers to systems integration that you encounter when speaking to Bleepa users?
When we’re working with a client to integrate systems, the biggest barriers from their point of view are time and resource. They may pay a third party to do their integration, which can be costly, but it’s not uncommon for the client to have their own integration team that is familiar with the legacy systems that they are typically using.
These teams are always busy; they have a lot to do, so time is always the biggest barrier. That usually means that we have to do as much work as we can with their existing systems.
When we’re having conversations with them, we always ensure that we’re able to quickly discover what’s possible, not waste time going down avenues which simply aren’t practical or relevant for their needs.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Our work in enabling GPs and hospitals to maximise the care they provide across symptom-based pathways via community diagnostic centres (CDCs) has been incredibly rewarding.
I’ve been heavily involved in Bleepa’s pilot scheme with Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust from its inception – I’ve been involved in the design aspect of the project but I’m also part of the team that is implementing it on the ground.
I can vividly and clearly see how beneficial the system is going to be both for patients and for the clinicians and admin staff in time saved and pain points eased. It’s great to see how much more quickly we can help get people through their care pathways.
In my previous role working in teleradiology, I saw first-hand the benefits for doctors to examine scans remotely to help individual patients. But the scale of the interoperability being used to facilitate the CDC’s work is incredible. So, it’s both very exciting and very motivating.
This has the potential to be a bit of a paradigm shift in the way care is provided if the technology is adopted more broadly. To be working on a pilot scheme that is already helping to speed up patient diagnostic pathways on a large scale is incredible.