Samsung Medical Center Combines 5G with Digital Pathology to Speed Anatomic Pathologist’s Readings of Frozen Sections, Cuts Test TAT in Half
HIMSS names SMC a ‘world leader’ in digital pathology and awards the South Korean Healthcare provider Stage 7 DIAM status
Anatomic pathologists and clinical laboratory managers in hospitals know that during surgery, time is of the essence. While the patient is still on the surgical table, biopsies must be sent to the lab to be frozen and sectioned before going to the surgical pathologist for reading. Thus, shortening time to answer for frozen sections is a significant benefit.
To address an overwhelming number of frozen section tests and delays in surgical pathology turnaround times (TATs), Samsung Medical Center (SMC) in Seoul, South Korea, used 5G network connectivity to develop an integrated digital pathology system that is “enhancing the speed of clinical decision-making across its facilities,” according to Healthcare IT News.
This effort in surgical pathology is part of a larger story of the digital transformation underway across all service lines at this hospital. For years, SMC has been on track to become one of the world’s “intelligent hospitals,” and it is succeeding. In February, SMC became the first healthcare provider to achieve Stage 7 in the HIMSS Digital Imaging Adoption Model (DIAM), which “assesses an organization’s capabilities in the delivery of medical imaging,” Healthcare IT News reported.
As pathologists and clinical laboratory leaders know, implementation of digital pathology is no easy feat. So, it’s noteworthy that SMC has brought together disparate technologies to reduce turnaround times, and that the medical center has caught the eye of leading health information technology (HIT) organizations.
“The digital pathology system established by the pathology department and SMC’s information strategy team could be one of the good examples of the fourth industrial revolution model applied to a hospital system,” anatomic pathologist Kee Taek Jang, MD (above), Professor of Pathology, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Samsung Medical Center told Healthcare IT News. Clinical laboratory leaders and surgical pathologists understand the value digital pathology can bring to faster turnaround times. (Photo copyright: Samsung Medical Center.)
Anatomic Pathologists Can Read Frozen Sections on Their Smartphones
Prior to implementation of its 5G digital pathology system, surgeons and their patients waited as much as 20 minutes for anatomic pathologists to traverse SMC’s medical campus to reach the healthcare provider’s cancer center diagnostic reading room, Healthcare IT News reported.
Now, SMC’s integrated digital pathology system—which combines slide scanners, analysis software, and desktop computers with a 5G network—has enabled a “rapid imaging search across the hospital,” Healthcare IT News noted. Surgical pathologists can analyze tissue samples faster and from remote locations on digital devices that are convenient to them at the time, a significant benefit to patient care.
“The system has been effective in reducing the turnaround time as pathologists can now attend to frozen test consultations on their smartphone or tablet device via 5G network anywhere in the hospital,” Jean-Hyoung Lee, SMC’s Manager of IT Infrastructure, told Healthcare IT News which noted these system results:
- TAT decreased from 20 minutes to 10 minutes.
- Transferring scans of large frozen tissues up to three gigabyte in size is now possible through the 5G network.
- Replacement of “ordinary pathology microscopy” is possible according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
Additionally, through the 5G network, pathologists can efficiently access CT scans and MRI data on proton therapy cancer treatments. Prior to the change, the doctors had to download the image files in SMC’s Proton Therapy Center, according to a news release from KT Corporation, a South Korean telecommunications company that began working with SMC on building the 5G-connected digital pathology system in 2019.
SMC Leads in Digital Pathology: HIMSS
DIAM is an approach for gauging an organization’s medical imaging delivery capabilities. To achieve Stage 7—External Image Exchange and Patient Engagement—healthcare providers must also have achieved all capabilities outlined in Stages 5 and 6.
In addition, the following must also have been adopted:
- The majority of image-producing service areas are exchanging and/or sharing images and reports and/or clinical notes based on recognized standards with care organizations of all types, including local, regional, or national health information exchanges.
- The application(s) used in image-producing service areas support multidisciplinary interactive collaboration.
- Patients can make appointments, and access reports, images, and educational content specific to their individual situation online.
- Patients are able to electronically upload, download, and share their images.
“This is the most comprehensive use of integrated digital pathology we have seen,” Andrew Pearce, HIMSS VP Analytics and Global Advisory Lead, told Healthcare IT News.
SMC’s Manager of IT Planning Seungho Lim told Healthcare IT News the medical center’s goal is to become “a global advanced intelligent hospital through digital health innovation.” The plan is to offer, he added, “super-gap digital services that prioritize non-contact communication and cutting-edge technology.”
For pathologists and clinical laboratory leaders, SMC’s commitment to 5G to move digital pathology data is compelling. And its recognition by HIMSS could inspire more healthcare organization to make changes in medical laboratory workflows. SMC, and perhaps other South Korean healthcare providers, will likely continue to draw attention for their healthcare IT achievements.
—Donna Marie Pocius