The key to unlocking the broad benefits of digital pathology, including more efficient use of resources, easy access to colleagues & experts, faster clinical workflows — depends on having an image management system providing broad access to every image in the repository for users to view and share.
When a laboratory invests in an image management system, it should consider the breadth of capability that the system provides. Beyond the sharing of images for education, tumor boards and presentations, an image management system provides a powerful infrastructure for consultations, both internally and with outside facilities. It can also serve as a comprehensive platform for quality assurance and image analysis workflows.
A scanner-agnostic image management system will allow your laboratory to take full advantage of all that digital pathology has to offer.
Benefits of a scanner-agnostic image management system
Here are some points to consider when making the case about how the long-term benefits of a scanner-agnostic image management system outweigh the costs:
Consistent access, viewing and reporting capability in all locations
Multi-site medical organizations, especially those that have grown through consolidation, grapple with an alphabet soup of equipment and software. With a scanner-agnostic image management system, pathology personnel in different locations have consistent access, viewing and reporting capabilities. In addition to collaborating with colleagues throughout the network, such easy access facilitates resident training and participation in multidisciplinary tumor boards.
Buy the scanner with the features you need, when it makes sense for your department. Be assured you can access every image in your repository.
Expand your imaging capabilities
Scanners vary in scanning modality as well as capacity and scan time. While some laboratories may only require a scanner for brightfield images, others may have a need for scanning fluorescent images. Cytopathology labs may also want “z-stacking” capability, permitting the user to view multiple layers of an image. Many laboratories are also utilizing image analysis in their diagnostic and R&D workflows. As a result, laboratories may desire to have more than one model of scanner to meet specific needs but are locked into a single vendor because of software limitations.
Over time, a laboratory may choose to upgrade their scanner to a different model offering new capabilities. In doing so, pathologists risk losing access to their archived images whose formats many not be readable by the new software.
With a scanner-agnostic digital pathology platform, you have ongoing access to your images, regardless of scanner manufacturer or image type. This flexibility lets your laboratory select the scanner that meets your needs rather than having to conform standards set by other laboratories within your network. The cost benefit of efficient utilization of existing resources is significant. If one location needs to upgrade to a high-capacity scanner, it can do so without requiring a complete “rip and replace” of all scanners across the organization.
Collaborate and consult with any colleague, any place
When it comes to collaborating with external experts that may use a different scanning platform, most pathology labs must default to the old standard of recutting the glass slides and shipping the case out, adding days or even weeks to the turnaround time for a report. With a scanner-agnostic, browser-based platform, you and your colleagues can easily consult and collaborate with colleagues down the hall, across the continent, or across the globe.
All of the case information, gross images, frozen sections and slide images with annotations are available and can even be accessed in a synchronous viewing session. In addition to driving cost out of the process, digital pathology opens up the potential for added revenue by facilitating your ability to perform remote consultations, especially with hospitals lacking easy access to pathology expertise.
The cumulative effect of these benefits becomes a net positive for the departmental budget in the course of just a few years. New revenue streams from consultations, combined with dramatically reduced costs and better resource utilization, produce returns many times greater than the investment.
Engage a team
Start building internal support for adoption of a scanner-agnostic image management system by engaging two or three colleagues who understand the critical importance of accessibility of images in the digital future. Make a strong case for how a scanner-agnostic image management system will benefit your department or organization, and take that case to your department chair or administrator.
Will this technology:
- Increase your department’s reach and open up new opportunities for consultations?
- Make better use of limited staff and contribute to the laboratory’s infrastructure?
- Enable better collaboration among networked facilities, ultimately improving patient care?
Most importantly, don’t give up. Keep making your case, and the promise of digital pathology will be in your grasp.