Software Every DMT Should Know About

Software every LAB should know about

Get to know the electronic tools that can help your DMT operate more efficiently

In today's electronic age, digital hardware and software exist to make our lives — not to mention our jobs — much easier and more efficient. For Diagnostic Management Teams (DMTs), these tools can help take your group's efforts to the next level of productivity.

The forward-thinking DMT concept depends on equally cutting-edge implementation and support systems for its success.

"The DMT puts together the diagnostic puzzle and generates a diagnosis, or a short list of diagnostic options, and then provides that information to the treating healthcare provider," explained Dr. Michael Laposata, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. "It's my hope that everyone will soon appreciate that the goal of the DMT is to make complex clinical laboratory and anatomic pathology information understandable to every healthcare practitioner so that accurate diagnoses can be made rapidly."

Achieving that goal behooves DMTs to operate at optimal efficiency. And that's where software, video-conferencing programs and mobile apps come into play.

Contributing Lab Leaders

Michael Laposata

Dr. Michael Laposata

Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas
Medical Branch in Galveston
 

Dr. Eric Walser

Dr. Eric Walser

Chairman of Radiology at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston
 

 

Data capture basics

Every DMT needs a way to electronically capture and distill comments, and subsequently to convey that information quickly and conveniently to treating physicians. Performing this task can be as simple as drafting content and forwarding it on via email or intra-organization communication systems, or as intricate as developing customized software to streamline the data flow.

"I worked with a colleague at Massachusetts General Hospital to develop a major body of hundreds of comments that could be inserted and modified specific to the patient for the vast majority of coagulation cases we encountered. I’d estimate that we only had to use ‘free text,’ as we called it, for one out of 20 cases. This was a major advantage for residents when they were creating preliminary interpretations to present at rounds."

Dr. Michael Laposata

Another DMT Dr. Laposata worked with at Vanderbilt University used an internally developed software system that organized lab results into tables relevant to the DMT’s purpose and goals.

"In coagulation for example, all the test results, anticoagulation results, and chemistry or microbiology results related to coagulation appeared on a spreadsheet that included the comprehensive patient history," he said. "It greatly minimized the need to search the medical record to find information."

Dr. Michael Laposata

Virtual meeting technology

Video conferencing software, such as Skype and GoToMeeting, facilitates consultations remotely if it isn’t possible to physically assemble DMT members in the same room at the same time due to time or distance constraints.

Dr. Eric Walser, Chairman of Radiology at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, initiated a radiology DMT that coordinates group members — including the patient — for digital meetings on a regular basis.

"Traditionally, doctors meet once a week and go over all their cases," he described. "This is much faster and more immediate. You present to the patient and the other physicians in real time as you get the results."

Dr. Eric Walser

After an initial face-to-face consultation for billing purposes, Dr. Walser says involving the patient directly in the DMT meetings also addresses privacy issues because the patient is consenting to discuss his or her case with the participating medical professionals.

“It really accelerates the care of the patients,” he added. “They talk to you with fewer distractions and they feel much more listened to, not just by one doctor, but by four. We usually have a pathologist, a doctor or surgeon, a radiologist and a patient navigator in attendance.”

Dr. Eric Walser

Another plus — video conferencing gives experts from other organizations and locations the opportunity to weigh in with valuable input they otherwise wouldn’t be able to provide, or would only be able to provide in a longer time frame.

Get with IT

When setting up a DMT, it’s a good idea to loop in your organization’s IT department for support during the planning stages. These experts can help to make the process of gathering the information your team needs as seamless as possible, and may even be able to suggest ideas, electronic resources and solutions you hadn’t thought of.

“There are plenty of ways to make the insertion of test recommendations and narrative interpretations of test results into the medical record more efficient,” Dr. Laposata noted. “From a momentum perspective, this permits more time at rounds to discuss the clinical aspects of the case, rather than routinely having to insert an awkward workaround to enter interpretation and make recommendations.”

Dr. Michael Laposata

The advantages of apps

Mobile apps also have a relevant place at the DMT table.

“We use mobile apps extensively; there are at least 12 that help us through coagulation rounds,” Dr. Laposata pointed out. “Many of these deal with data on the use of anticoagulants and provide information on questions such as how long to wait after anticoagulation is discontinued to perform a lumbar puncture. There are also numerous apps to help manage Warfarin therapy.”

Dr. Michael Laposata

Mobile device users can expect the number and sophistication levels of available apps to keep increasing. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is sponsoring a free anticoagulation manager app Dr. Laposata co-authored through two and a half years of development, now in the beta testing phase.

What’s next?

With technological advances taking place more rapidly all the time, just what does the future hold for DMTs from a digital standpoint? Dr. Laposata would like to see more DMTs get to the point of being able to offer written interpretations with a dial-in option for treating physicians and patients to participate in real-time group discussion, much like Dr. Walser’s video conferences.

“There is value in showing the patients on the screen and allowing them to ask questions to the experts within the DMT,” he said. “This truly brings the experts to the bedside.”

Dr. Eric Walser

Mobile device users can expect the number and sophistication levels of available apps to keep increasing. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is sponsoring a free anticoagulation manager app Dr. Laposata co-authored through two and a half years of development, now in the beta testing phase.

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