Fast-moving trends are reshaping how clinical laboratories and pathology groups use information technology to deliver more value to physicians and patients
In the field of medical laboratory informatics, there is an emerging trend of great importance to both clinical laboratories and pathology groups. It is becoming increasingly tougher for hospital labs to select a “best-of-breed” laboratory information system (LIS). That’s because more hospital administrators are opting for a single “enterprise-wide” informatics/EHR solution that commonly includes an LIS that is not the first choice of laboratory management.
“We are now at a very significant tipping point in the field of pathology informatics,” declared Bruce Friedman, M.D., Active Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “After more than three decades of stability and broad acceptance of best-of-breed LISs and close collaboration between LIS vendors and pathology professionals, the enterprise-wide-solution is emerging as a favorite of hospital CIOs and CEOs.
Hospital Administrators Use New Criteria to Purchase LIS
“The big driver in this trend is the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) systems by hospitals and health systems, due to the substantial federal incentives designed to encourage this adoption,” continued Friedman. “Vendors are offering hospitals a single enterprise-wide solution that comes with an embedded LIS such as Epic’s Beaker. Beaker is not yet a best-of-breed LIS, but may achieve this status in the future.
“The bigger challenge, however, is that IT solutions for pathology and for clinical laboratories are now being made in the C-suites of hospitals,” he noted. “In addition, the EHR database is designed for use by clinicians and will be suboptimal for interrogation by lab-developed rules and support for precision medicine.” (See Dark Daily, “All-Stars in Pathology Informatics and Clinical Laboratory Information Systems Gather in Pittsburgh to Assess Market Changes,” June 11, 2012.)
Friedman will speaking on this trend at the upcoming Pathology Informatics 2012 conference which takes place on October 9 -12, in Chicago. His session is titled “Best-of-Breed (BoB) LISs Versus Enterprise-Wide Solutions.”
Another trend in laboratory informatics is the wider use of digital pathology by anatomic pathology groups of all sizes. “New digital scanners make it faster and cheaper to produce a whole slide image (WSI) that is rich in detail,” observed Friedman, who is also President of the Pathology Education Consortium (PEC) and an organizer of this conference. “With costs coming down and performance improving, more pathology labs are acquiring digital pathology systems and using this capability to improve the clinical services they provide to referring physicians.”
Digital Pathology Continues to Make Inroads in Clinical Settings
Friedman noted that, at Pathology Informatics 2012, there will be important sessions on digital pathology. Some of the topics include:
- state-of-the-art research in quantitative image analysis and visualization methods for digital pathology in diagnosis and prognosis from H&E and IHC stained, multi-parametric imaging;
- the increasing role of whole slide imaging in diagnostics and improving laboratory workflow; and,
- use of image-guided lasers in research and clinical applications.
“Pathologists and pathology practice administrators recognize the need for their laboratory to respond to the many technology changes happening in healthcare informatics,” observed Friedman. “At one end of the technology spectrum is rapid development of digital pathology, which is disruptive, because it has the potential to shift pathologists away from viewing glass slides to working directly from a digital image of the slide.
“At the other end of the spectrum is creation of a universal electronic health record (EHR),” he noted. “This will require pathology groups and clinical laboratories to integrate their LIS and AP information systems with physicians’ EMRs and health information exchanges,” Friedman explained, suggesting that the ever-evolving role of informatics in health care makes Pathology Informatics 2012 relevant for both anatomic and clinical pathologists.
Those pathologists and clinical laboratory professionals interested in learning more about these trends in laboratory informatics may want to review the speakers, workshops, sessions and presentations at this year’s Pathology Informatics 2012 program. Here are the links to the conference agenda and registration.