The Pathology Informatics division is focused on enabling the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine to achieve its clinical, educational, research, and administrative goals through the use of information technology. The continuous advances in the fields of hardware engineering, computer science, data analysis, and machine learning are producing novel products and services that have the potential to both facilitate qualitative improvements in existing workflows and to let us imagine new aspirations.
Pursuing the Highest Quality of Clinical Care
The quality of patient care is directly enhanced by implementation of appropriate IT systems, and the process of the implementation itself precipitates the critical review of the existing workflows. For example, the department has recently implemented the barcoding and tracking system for the hundreds of thousands of specimens, tissue blocks, slides, and associated documents passing through the Surgical Pathology division. As a result, it is now not only possible to track the location of each item, but to continuously measure productivity and to identify and prevent delays proactively. The Pathology Informatics division helped guide this project through the initial stages of defining goals, selecting the vendor, implementation, training, and post-launch ongoing support.
For the next generation of pathologists being trained at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, information technology will be an integral part of the practice of medicine. It is imperative to equip them with a deep understanding of the basic concepts underlying the various informatics disciplines to enable them to make informed decisions and consequently deliver outstanding care to patients. Medical Informatics is thus integrated into the resident curriculum via a lecture series and an elective rotation to allow those with a strong interest in IT to select and complete a project.
There is a wide variety of research being conducted within the department and across the institution. The researchers often have common needs, however, such as the need to digitize whole slide images for further analysis. To address this specific need, the Pathology Informatics division has established the scanning service. The first stage of this process was the vendor selection and implementation of the scanning equipment. Since each scanned slide results in file of 500MB to 2GB in size, a corresponding safe, HIPAA-compliant, cost-effective data storage strategy, as well as a network infrastructure plan, had to be developed.
Next, image analysis software solutions and their potential for objectivity will need to be evaluated. Along with telepathology, they may offer the most convincing reason to move to digital imaging for clinical use, as has already been done in the field of radiology. Digital imaging is just one of multiple initiatives being pursued by the division to enable and accelerate groundbreaking research. Please let us know if you are interested in getting your glass slides scanned.
Administration of personnel and resources within the department is an arduous task and can be streamlined by implementation of custom-built or off-the-shelf software. From vacation requests to tissue requests, online sites supported by the division help administrators collect and make the information manageable. Speech recognition software implemented in the grossing room reduces the burden of transcription. While the ultimate goal of the paperless office is a challenging one to reach, it remains nevertheless, and we are making steady progress toward it.
The notable constant in the fields of medical informatics and pathology informatics so far has been the rapid pace of progress; the overarching requirement has therefore been for the division to remain informed and up-to-date about the most recent developments in order to be able to provide valuable input into decision-making processes across the department. While this aspect of the field may appear daunting, we find it exciting and fulfilling. We are always ready to hear a new idea, to perform a cost-benefit analysis, and to assist with developing a plan for its implementation.
Scanning Service Manager