Most computer users don’t know their bits from their bytes or their RAM from their ROM. Many pathologists don’t either, which can be a problem in a field where laboratorians use computers to process, analyze, store, and present patient information.
Recognizing the increasing importance of information technology to the practice of pathology, JiYeon Kim, MD, and John Gilbertson, MD, both of Massachusetts General Hospital, developed a free online course in pathology informatics to help pathologists better understand how their lab’s software and hardware operate. Dr. Kim, a pathology informatics fellow at Massachusetts General, decided to create the course, called a Pathology Informatics Curriculum Wiki, after a search for informatics resources turned up little more than a handful of journal articles and books, some of which were outdated.
What makes the curriculum unique, she says, is that it relies on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, for most of its content. Through conversations with other fellows and residents, Dr. Kim learned that Wikipedia offers extensive informatics information and that its articles are created, updated, and edited by its community of users, who police each other for accuracy.
A continuously “self-updating” curriculum could be formed by identifying articles relevant to various areas of informatics, linking them from a single Web site, and monitoring them for quality, Dr. Kim explains. This allows people to read about technology concepts using a single source and without having to wait for them to be published in the next version of a textbook or the next edition of a medical journal.
“There’s really a rapid pace of change in this field,” she adds, “and the effort necessary to develop and maintain a traditional curriculum is substantial, especially given the small number of academic experts in pathology informatics. On the other hand, Wikipedia has 85,000 active contributors working everyday. It’s a lot easier to work with articles that are independently updated by a large community than for a few experts to update educational materials on the same subjects alone.”
While universities worldwide have started using wiki curricula, Dr. Kim believes she has co-created the only wiki-based curriculum available for pathology informatics. (A wiki is a collaborative Web site that allows users to easily contribute their own information and add pages.) The course, she notes, is geared toward pathologists, but it’s available to the general public as well.
It’s a starting place for pathologists interested in knowing more about their lab’s technology, she says. The goal is to help pathologists do everything from learning about the latest image scanners, to developing a better understanding of genomic data mining, to advising hospital administrators on what networks and servers to purchase.
But the wiki site is not meant to be a stand-alone curriculum for pathology informatics. It “is not a substitute for formal departmental support for informatics-related education,” Dr. Kim says. “Training in pathology informatics should also involve residents in departmental activities in information management and communication, such as meetings on electronic medical records, quality and safety issues, electronic physician order entry, et cetera.”
The curriculum, which is available at http://pathinformatics.wikispaces.com/, is organized into chapters devoted to such topics as laboratory information systems, telepathology, and security. Each chapter provides learning goals for that topic, detailed information about the subject, proposed activities for the student, and further reading, all of which include links to Wikipedia articles related to the topic to keep the course current. “It organizes Wikipedia articles into a series of chapters that people then can go through,” Dr. Kim says. “I feel like it makes a lot more sense for us to use those resources than to try to create new resources.”
The trick is to encourage pathology informatics experts to get involved in creating and updating Wikipedia articles that are specific to their areas of expertise and that don’t already have strong Wikipedia entries, she continues. To do so, she’s spreading the word about her pathology informatics site at conferences, through a Facebook group, and in a journal article she’s writing. Dr. Kim also plans to contact some influential pathologists directly.
“I hope people will view contributions to Wikipedia as part of our greater professional responsibility of giving back to the community,” she says. “At the same time, we can really broaden public awareness of our field by expanding the pathology informatics-related content on Wikipedia, since that’s where most people turn to first for information about a subject.”
A Pathology Informatics Curriculum Wiki, which debuted in September, has steadily gained users. It had received more than 80 visitors by its second month of operation. Dr. Kim is optimistic that as word spreads, the community of users and contributors will grow.
“I expect that every pathology training program may be interested in using this wiki to supplement their informatics curriculum,” she says. “Given that only a handful of residency programs have standalone electives or fellowships in pathology informatics, I think the interest far outweighs current training opportunities.”
Abbott has announced a definitive agreement to purchase Starlims Technologies Ltd., a provider of laboratory information management systems.
“Starlims’ advanced Web-based technologies can help our customers operate efficiently across the core laboratory, molecular, and point-of-care segments of the global diagnostics market,” says Edward L. Michael, executive vice president of diagnostics products for Abbott.
Abbott will integrate the Starlims LIMS into its portfolio of laboratory information management products while supporting and expanding the nonclinical market segments served by Starlims Technologies.
Microsoft Corp. has announced that it intends to acquire Sentillion, a vendor of context-management and single-sign-on software. Microsoft plans to combine Sentillion’s software with its Amalga Unified Intelligence System real-time data-aggregation product.
Sentillion will continue to sell and support its products while Microsoft invests in the long-term evolution of the combined portfolio of Sentillion and Microsoft Health Solutions. Sentillion will also continue to operate out of its corporate headquarters in Andover, Mass.
Microsoft’s Amalga system integrates clinical, administrative, and financial information from disparate information systems and tailors it to meet the needs of clinicians, laboratorians, analysts, nurses, and administrators.
Atlas Medical Software recently debuted its electronic prescribing portal. The product combines Atlas’ LabWorks outreach module and H2H Solutions’ Digital Rx electronic prescribing module.
The integrated solution provides single sign-on access for order entry, results review, and electronic prescribing. Users can obtain demo-graphics and medication histories and map laboratory results to medications.
Orchard Software has signed an agreement with Fisher HealthCare that allows Fisher to sell Orchard laboratory information systems, including the Orchard Pathology diagnostic information system, to hospitals and independent reference laboratories.
“This agreement strategically aligns Orchard products with other products being offered by Fisher HealthCare,” says Mark Smits, vice president of marketing, sourcing, and business development for Fisher. “Fisher HealthCare offers many Thermo Scientific anatomical pathology processing systems, including labelers, etchers, slide readers, and stainers. With Orchard, we can offer our lab customers a more complete and comprehensive package.”
Fisher HealthCare is a division of Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Nuance Communications has introduced Veriphy 4.0, a Web-based critical test result management system.
The end-to-end health care enterprise solution communicates critical test results from pathology, radiology, and cardiology departments to ordering clinicians.
Features of Veriphy 4.0 include multi-facility support for local, regional, and national organizations; customizable criteria for defining critical tests; mobile message retrieval; the ability to search and view messages in accordance with various clinical and administrative inquiry needs; and interface tools, such as customizable drop-down menus, audio control, screen minimization capability, and encrypted passwords.
QuadraMed Corp. has entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by the technology-focused private equity firm Francisco Partners.
QuadraMed, which markets a variety of hospital software, including an electronic health record system, expects to maintain its Reston, Va.-based headquarters and its other offices throughout the United States.
“Francisco Partners brings to QuadraMed extensive resources, expertise, and a proven track record of helping health care technology companies sharpen their strategy and operational execution,” says Duncan James, QuadraMed’s president and chief executive officer. “Operating as a private company will also allow us to place more emphasis on generating long-term value for our clients with less distraction on short-term results for the public markets.”
Francisco Partners also owns the health information technology companies Healthland, API Healthcare, and AdvancedMD Software.
BioImagene is partnering with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, to develop Companion Algorithms to aid laboratorians in interpreting digitized images of cancer diagnostic tests.
Under the collaboration, the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers will use BioImagene’s iAnalytics framework to develop next-generation analysis, quantification, and decision-support tools for anatomic pathology. Researchers and clinicians from Penn and Rutgers will digitize standard prostate biopsy samples using BioImagene’s Virtuoso Web-based digital pathology workflow-management software. They will also use BioImagene’s telepathology capabilities to develop and validate algorithms for diagnostic use.
The resulting algorithms are intended to aid in locating and measuring the progression of prostate cancer and, therefore, should help deter-mine appropriate treatment.
“The promise of digital pathology lies at the interface between scanning hardware and advanced software algorithms,” says Michael Feldman, MD, PhD, director of pathology informatics and assistant dean for information technology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “This partnership,” he continues, “marks a transition in the nascent field of digital pathology, which is shifting away from focusing on scanning hardware to a new focus that integrates clinically relevant algorithms into an advanced platform.”
The federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has launched a blog, called Health IT Buzz, to provide an industrywide forum on health care information technology issues.
“With this new venture, we hope to create a forum for engagement,” said David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology, in his first posting on the blog, http://healthit.hhs.gov/blog/onc. “We plan to report on progress and create an open dialogue among members of the health IT community.”
Among the topics that will be addressed on the blog are how to support, secure, and exchange electronic health information, protect patient privacy, and implement standards. The blog will also provide information about the government’s new health care IT grant programs and discuss rulemaking relative to the definition of meaningful use under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“We want to hear from citizens, patients, health professionals, managers, policymakers, technology enthusiasts, and technology skeptics,” said Dr. Blumenthal. “We can’t succeed unless we understand the wishes and concerns of the many constituents we serve.”
Dr. Aller is director of automated disease surveillance and team lead for disaster preparedness Focus B, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at email@example.com.