Dark Daily recently caught up with Michael J. Becich, M.D., Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is the Course Director of the upcoming APIII conference on anatomic pathology informatics and imaging support for translational medicine and an international expert on the digitization of anatomic pathology.

We queried Dr. Becich about his views on the three most important new developments in pathology informatics. Because he is on cutting edge of new technologies and applications, his insights can cue pathologists about what is likely to change in the way anatomic pathology groups capture information and report it to referring clinicians.

Number one on Becich’s list is the continued deployment of synoptic reporting. Synoptic reports are structured, textual reports with coding and standards built in. Laboratory Information System (LIS) vendors continue to push this feature and it is enabling laboratorians to data mine from pathology reports. This development is important because, “For years, pathologists dictated reports as large blocks of text and valuable information was locked inside those reports,” observed Becich. “Now, with synoptic reports, that valuable information is directly accessible.”

Next on Becich’s major list of trends is the continuing development of whole slide digital imaging. Radiology has been converting to digital picture archiving systems (or PACS) for some time. Now, pathology is moving down the same road, with glass slides being converted to digital files. This development is important because “pathologists frequently must transport slides around to numerous locations and it is often difficult to share a glass slide with others. Digital slides provide a cost-effective way to easily and instantaneously share slides and improve patient safety,” said Becich. He also pointed out that digital slides offer the opportunity for pathologists to work from a totally-digital and analytical desktop. One major benefit is that it makes it easier for pathologists to more widely distribute information to patients and stakeholders who want it.

The third development on Becich’s radar screen is quantitative image analysis. Pathologists now have computer algorithms that assist them in the interpretation of images. This is particularly important for immunohistochemistry. Billing codes are now available that pathologists can bill for (if they choose to) use these computer-assisted devices. “This trend is important, said Becich, “These computer algorithms enable a pathologist’s digital desktop to provide high-volume, high-throughput quantitative analysis. In the era of personalized medicine, the qualitative evaluation (1+, 2+, 3+ method) is not sufficient for the interpretation of immunohistochemistry.”

Laboratorians interested in learning more about these trends should attend the APIII conference. It will take place on September 9-12, 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Marriott City Center Hotel.