Pukka-j recently installed its Enterprise Anonymisation service at St. James’s University Hospital, Leeds. St. James’s, affectionately known as “Jimmy’s”, is internationally famous as Europe’s largest teaching hospital. The new software was supplied to St. James’s Institute of Oncology. Housed in the purpose-built, state-of-the-art Bexley Wing, the Institute provides a world-class service to cancer patients from across the local area and beyond. 

 It is important for teaching and research establishments that images for clinical trials are de-identified and exported to another system, outside the institution’s security network. In addition, before data from research can be shared with other researchers or archived, it may be necessary to anonymise it so that individuals, organisations, or businesses cannot be identified.  

 As part of its extensive portfolio of products for healthcare imaging and reporting, Pukka-j offers an anonymiser designed to be used either as a stand-alone anonymised research store, or as a portal through which data is passed to be anonymised and forwarded to dedicated research stores, at the same time, keeping a log of the anonymised record. It is applied to all DICOM files arriving on the server, or HL7 messages containing a patient details section.

 Together with the anonymisation function is the ‘pseudonymisation’ process, where the true identifier, such as name or patient ID number is replaced by a pseudonym that is unique to the individual concerned, but bears no relation to the person ‘in the real world’. The pseudonym, therefore, cannot be used as a means of identification. This is because in the ‘pseudonymisation’, the information that reveals who the pseudonym relates to, will be held securely and separately from the data being processed. Used along with the original patient ID, the new anonymous patient details can be tracked via a database table on the server. In the case of the St. James’s project, the Pukka-j software meets all the criteria and handles the pseudonymisation procedure with ease.

 Dr. Isobel Bond, Trainee Clinical Scientist at St. James’s Institute of Oncology, says, The service is being developed to be used in radiotherapy, MR and nuclear medicine at St. James’s to prepare data for clinical trials and teaching purposes. Anonymisation of the many different types of data we use is an extremely complex task. The Pukka-j system is flexible and will give us control over how the data is altered to best meet our requirements.”

 The software can be configured in general, or for a specific research trial, and will create anonymisation records automatically upon receiving data. It is independent of the order or nature of the data, and it is possible to pre-define an anonymisation record for trials where the patients and their required trial IDs are known.  

 Dez Wright, Technical Manager at Pukka-j comments, With the legal and ethical obligations in place for patient confidentiality, this is an area of vital importance to hospitals and research institutions. It can also pose problems for the software programmer. Pukka-j specialises in being able to customise and solve to the client’s satisfaction these types of delicate issues, often not tackled by the larger IT suppliers.”