Expert tips to maximize the value of your digital pathology program

July 21, 2017

3 Expert Tips to Maximize the Value of Your Digital Pathology Program

 

The implementation of digital technology in your lab is inevitable.

But that doesn’t mean it comes easily. Digital pathology requires a big financial investment, a full reengineering of workflows, and a slew of operational considerations (and it’s all worth it).

Because of this, your digital pathology program can’t just meet minimal requirements. The platform brings incredible value—but it’s critical for you to maximize its application.

Our lab leaders are here to share their expert advice for making the most of your new digital pathology capabilities, from meeting institutional goals to amplifying your own value. And, as you’ll see some of these benefits reach far beyond your lab to impact your entire network.

Here are our top three recommendations:

Article highlights:

 
  • Implementing digital pathology requires a major investment of resources
     
  • You can elevate the value of your lab by maximizing the ROI on this program
     
  • These three tips from our lab leaders will show you how

Contributing Lab Leaders

Thomas Bauern

Thomas Bauer

Pathologist, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation; Pathologist and Medical Director of ePathology, Cleveland Clinic

Kenneth Bloom, Ph.D.

Kenneth Bloom, Ph.D.

Head of Oncology and Immunotherapy Human
Longevity Inc.

 

Charles Matthews

Charles Mathews

Vice President, Boston Healthcare
Board Member, MassMedic

 

1. Drive collaboration, regardless of location

Unlike traditional slides, you can share digitally scanned slides almost instantly. This makes it much easier for you and multidisciplinary colleagues throughout your network to collaborate on challenging cases—anywhere, any time.

Comparing Image Sharing
Traditional Pathology: Challenging Digital Pathology: Easy
Considerations:
  • Slide fragility
  • Transport time
  • Clerical work for sample tracking
Consideration:
  • Access to the lab information system (LIS)
Resource utilization: high
  • Time
  • Money
  • Process steps
Resource utilization: minimal

Imagine having specialty pathologists, surgeons, oncologists and other professionals lending their expertise in real-time. Digital pathology is making this your reality—and putting better outcomes within reach.

As Charles Mathews reminds us, “We spend a lot of time today talking about how much better it is when you have a collaborative team working together. I think when you have enabling technologies like digital pathology, it takes that barrier off the equation in terms of where people are physically located.”

Better Collaboration Starts With This

You may have strong partnerships within your service line, can you say the same about colleagues beyond the walls of the lab? To work better together, you have to know who to include, what are their specialties, and how you can exchange value.

Consider organizing a live or virtual meet-and-greet among key network stakeholders so you can begin to get to know each other.

Looking for more ideas? Here are some of our lab leaders’ best tips for expanding your professional network.

 

Whether you’re already using digital pathology or are just beginning to consider it, there’s no time like the present to pave the way to better collaboration.

2. Think entrepreneurially to build revenue

Digital pathology can clearly help improve outcomes and finances for your existing business. But, it can also serve as a vehicle for increasing your institution’s reach—for even more revenue.

Labs can quickly and easily transfer digital slide images, that have the potential to offer your lab’s full suite of pathology services—and your staff’s unique skills—to geographically remote institutions. Your lab can help rural care settings, laboratories without specialized expertise and even foreign locations.

Opportunity Without Borders

With the exception of South Africa and Botswana, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa average less than one pathologist per 500,000 people.*

Population per pathologist, 2012

*American Cancer Society, World Health Organization, UICC. Global innovation in better-value cancer care is needed to face current challenges. The Cancer Atlas online. http://canceratlas.cancer.org/taking-action/management-and-treatment/. Accessed 5/11/2017.

Get Funding to Broaden Your Services

If it makes business sense, your C-suite will likely give you their attention But from there, you need them to give you the funds to realize your vision.

Here’s our five-step plan to get funding from your C-suite:

  1. Identify your team’s bandwidth to take on additional work

  2. Make a financial case for outreach

  3. Present your capabilities, for example:

    • Expertise in pathology subspecialties—lend your skills to other institutions in need

    • Times of day with lower throughput—use these times to read images from institutions in other time zones

  4. Explain your plan to partner with your IT department on the technicalities

  5. 5. Highlight how you’ll revise your workflow to absorb more work In doing this, you’ll be creating amazing value for your lab and demonstrating your unique role in institutional success.

3. Leverage archived images for higher quality care

From day one, each digital pathology file your lab generates becomes part of an instantly accessible—and almost infinitely sortable—database. Without the time required to retrieve and sort actual slides, digital images can be called up and cross-referenced according to a wide range of variables—from medical condition, to anatomy, to chronology, to turnaround time, to patient age and gender..

Go see physicians and nurses. Get out so you don’t get shut out. In other words, go to their offices, the hospital common areas, on rounds if you can. Understand their world and how to best serve them from their perspective.

Because of this, you can transform your lab’s image archive from a record-keeping system to an invaluable reference tool.

Here are our lab leaders’ top recommendations for leveraging your digital pathology slides to increase their value:

1. Build an educational library
Empower pathologist to review past cases for visual comparison, validate studies and hone their skills.

2. Showcase slides at conferences
Help educate pathologists around the world to raise the quality of care, while positioning your institution as a thought leader.

3. Group slides by area of specialty
Dr. Bauer had an inspired idea to give each resident an external hard drive so they can load cases with their own specialty interests on it. This gives them a consolidated library of key cases for reference.

Getting the most out of every slide

These tips can help your team put digital pathology to its greatest use, improve quality care throughout your network and redefine the value of your lab.

Start putting these ideas into practice today, as you help shape the future of digital pathology.

1. Drive collaboration, regardless of location

2. Think entrepreneurially to build revenue

3. Leverage archived images for higher quality care

Asking open-ended questions is a simple interview technique any laboratorian can adopt. They will help you collect vital information, understand the needs of your colleagues, and act in a way that meets those needs. This can enhance the value of your lab in the eyes of the clinicians you serve.


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