Healthcare organizations are likely to find more reasons to bring digital pathology and radiology into an enterprise imaging strategy, which can improve the availability of key diagnostic information for physicians as they treat patients.

Pathologists historically have used non-digital approaches for preserving records or visual representations of tissue samples. However, that’s changing, particularly when the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 approved the first whole slide imaging system for digital pathology, giving provider organizations the opportunity to integrate pathology studies into a broader imaging strategy.

Such integration can enable more information to be made available to clinicians as they plan treatment for patients, said Rasu Shrestha, MD, Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Enterprises, during an educational session at the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine.

“This coming together of digital pathology and radiology into enterprise imaging” has potential beyond just facilitating imaging exchange and storage, he said. An overarching strategy can provide efficiencies for clinicians and savings on information technology.

Also See: Digital pathology lags radiology in maturity, but offers potential payoff

Last April, the FDA permitted marketing of the Philips IntelliSite Pathology Solution, a whole slide imaging system that enables the review and interpretation of digital surgical pathology slides prepared from biopsied tissue. The system enables pathologists to read tissue slides digitally to make diagnoses, rather than looking directly at a tissue sample mounted on a glass slide under a conventional light microscope. Because the system digitizes slides that would otherwise be stored in physical files, it also provides a streamlined slide storage and retrieval system that may ultimately help make critical health information available to pathologists, other health care professionals and patients faster.

Digital capabilities in both diagnostic disciplines can enable them to take advantage of technologies like using the cloud, Shrestha said.

“This could be a good intersection point, where our imagers come together,” said Michael J. Becich, MD, Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Pathology and radiology should be challenged to plumb data systems together.”

Pathologists typically deal with a variety of non-standardized image types, added Eric Glassy, MD, a pathologist and medical director of Affiliated Pathologists Medical Group, a 40-physician medical group practice in Dominguez, Calif. Pathologists have not worried about how to store the wide variety of images up until recently, he said.

Having an enterprise approach to imaging could help pair medical information in patients’ electronic health records with radiological and pathology images, which would help clinicians in having context to those studies, the panelists said. And images gathered by other specialists, such as cardiologists and dermatologists, also could be part of an enterprise approach.

“When I’m trying to render a diagnosis now, I have specimens coming from offices, and there’s zero information coming with them,” Glassy said. “I can go into EMR (to get context), but often I get the best information from the radiology report. I would like to see more collaboration between the disciplines. We might be able to use unified viewers—right now, information from radiology and pathology is still siloed.”

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