For my nearly 30 years of working in health care - in some form or another – I’ve repeatedly heard one guiding principle: run lean. What does that mean? Lean methodologies have been applied and adapted across just about every type of industry. Banking, construction, health care, government, manufacturing, engineering, design, back office administration and more. It is not just for the more "industrial" sectors; it can and has been applied across a diverse range of industries. There are lean programs for supply chain, administration, management, product development, manufacturing and others.
Pathologists frequently mention “I consulted on this” or “I sent this case off to a consultant” or “We were consulted about…”. But what does it mean? It is frequently puzzling for clinicians or patients. Does that mean my tissue specimen went to another laboratory? Does that mean slides or images from my case were seen outside the institution? Who gets consulted? Who pays for this?
In nearly every conversation we have with major hospital centers and pathology labs, the question comes up about how to initiate 2nd opinion pathology referrals from outside the US. Everybody wants to know: how can we work with China…or India…or other areas of the world where pathology is dramatically underserved? Most US expert centers have a healthy referral business, with slides arriving via mail and FedEx daily/weekly. Going digital in pathology would provide the means to increase referral business by streamlining and accelerating the process, from image acquisition to diagnostic report.
The Affordable Care Act and market changes like baby boomers entering their senior years with a decreasing amount of doctors to care for them are driving a mind-blowing rate of change in healthcare. Medical practices, including pathology, will sink or swim based on how they adapt to the new realities.
It’s interesting to look beyond the U.S. to see how global digital pathology adoption is progressing. After a three month test pilot last year (with more testing over the next ten months), University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust has launched a digital pathology system across its facility with the Omnyx Integrated Digital pathology system from GE Healthcare.
The question sounds cliché. Loosely defined, “team” is a group of people who work together, generally toward shared outcomes or goals. Like many, I grew up playing sports during childhood, we rode bikes without helmets, fended for ourselves, got ourselves to little league games and found out when we got into trouble our parents were generally on the side of the school or the coach. Those days are sadly over but the experiences taught me a couple of key life lessons:
When you boil it down to the bones, digital pathology needs to do one thing: make life easier for pathologists. Their role involves supporting physicians and patients across many institutions, geographies and hardware. They need to integrate all they do with their LISs. The end result has to be a better, faster, smarter, and easier to use workflow environment.