Pathologists can now render a diagnosis without accessing a computer, microscope, or the original specimen. And they can do so from the comfort of their own home or any other location that has cell phone reception. All they need is an Apple iPhone.
Making this futuristic concept a reality is the Institute for Medical Informatics, Oslo, Norway, which introduced, last month, Interpath for iPhone, an application for reviewing and navigating high-quality images of pathology slides over the multimedia cell phone.
Interpath uses a microscope slide scanner and Web server. It accesses high-resolution, full-slide scanned images stored on a server, explains Håvard Danielsen, PhD, director of the Institute for Medical Informatics and co-developer of Interpath. A laboratory can send a link for an image of a slide to an iPhone through a communications protocol called short message service, or SMS, which allows short text messages to be sent from one cell phone to another. When an iPhone user touches the link, the image is sent through the Interpath application to the phone.
The image is automatically sent from the server in such a manner that it looks like it’s stored on the iPhone, Dr. Danielsen says. Users can zero in on a specific spot on an image by dragging two fingers over that area on the iPhone screen. They can shift the image any direction by moving a finger placed on the screen in that direction.
Interpath underwent a feasibility test in January, for which a pathologist diagnosed 15 regular and five frozen section gynecological cancer cases on an iPhone. “All diagnoses were correct as compared to the initial diagnosis rendered by colleagues in their routine work at the pathology clinic,” Dr. Danielsen says. The testing showed that the diagnostic quality of the application is equal to that of a standard light microscope. The average time it took to make a diagnosis was between two and three minutes per case.
Technical interference and security are not issues, Dr. Danielsen says. Users have not experienced technical interference or other distortions of the image, he explains. “Should they be encountered, they will visualize in a manner that will be quite apparent to the user, and the user should simply start over” by re-linking to the image. The iPhone also supports wireless local area networks, so images and diagnoses can be sent through the Internet if a phone connection is down.
Because the iPhone supports all forms of mobile cell communication protocols, including 3G, or the third generation of standards for mobile networking, Dr. Danielsen says it offers a high level of security. In addition, images are labeled in such a manner that they can only be identified by being linked to the patient’s identification number in the hospital record system, so if a communication were intercepted, the patient’s name would not be disclosed. Any diagnosis related to an image should be referenced to this identification number, whether over the phone or through SMS or e-mail, which are all supported by the iPhone, Dr. Danielsen says.
The Interpath application is being distributed by Apple. Commercial rights are held by Room4 Group Ltd., a British software development company that holds a general innovation agreement with the Institute for Medical Informatics. The application supports scanners from Aperio and Hamamatsu, Dr. Danielsen says, but Room4 is willing to link to other manufacturers’ scanners.
“We will gradually be putting this to work at our hospital for consultancy/second opinion and other out-of-house work,” Dr. Danielsen says, referring to Oslo University Hospital, of which IMI is part.
On the heels of IMI’s introduction of Interpath, Caretools, Westlake Village, Calif., announced that its iChart application, created specifically for the iPhone and Apple iPod Touch, was named a runner-up in the Hot Product Award competition at the Medical Records Institute’s 2009 TEPR+ conference.
The iChart application allows physicians to download the functions of an electronic medical record system through a touch-and-tap interface. The product, which hit the market last fall, features modules called iLab Reports, iPrescribing, iBilling, and iNotes.
The iLab module allows physicians to remotely manage laboratory data by providing a link between a physician’s iPhone and his or her office. Plug-ins will be available by mid-year that will allow links from regional labs, says CareTools’ chief executive officer Thomas Giannulli, MD. “That feature is really one that’s been a long time in development just because it’s so hard to get these interfaces set up and deal with all the different regional labs,” he adds.
Caretools is developing capabilities for linking lab data from hospital systems to the iPhone. Pathologists eventually may be able to use the iLab module to link directly with a physician to discuss lab results, Dr. Giannulli says.
Both Interpath and iChart represent the growing trend of using mobile communication devices as health care applications. “Statistics out today show that 54 percent of physicians have a smartphone or PDA [personal digital assistant],” Dr. Giannulli says, referring to a study released last September by Manhattan Research. “The mobile device is really the true connectivity tool of the future. It’s not going to be a desktop terminal.”
Impac Software, part of the Elekta Group, has introduced PowerPath, version 9.3, the latest edition of its PowerPath anatomic pathology system. The new version includes updated advanced materials processing and document-management modules, as well as new interfaces for digital pathology and diagnostic reference systems.
The advanced materials processing module tracks materials from receipt and processing of tissue specimens through creation and tracking of blocks and slides to managing specimen discard.
Batch processing has been added to the document-management feature so users can process multiple documents at once using Impac’s bar-coding technology. PowerPath reads the bar code and auto-assigns documents to respective Power-Path cases.
Sunquest Information Systems has received FDA clearance for the newest release of its Sunquest Blood Bank software application. The upgraded version incorporates enhanced functionality for patient safety and is a key component of Sunquest’s integrated closed-loop blood-administration system.
The blood bank application has added a transfusion-management feature, the final component of Sunquest’s closed-loop transfusion-management system; integrated print-server functionality to automatically generate product labels for re-labeling; and the final component required for hospitals to comply fully with the global ISBT labeling standards for blood, tissue, and organ products.
Sunquest Blood Bank is fully integrated with the company’s positive patient identification specimen-collection and transfusion-management components.
PGP-Data Innovations has released its Laboratory Production Manager, version 5.5.3, revision 3, middleware system. The new release offers faster results computations and streamlined database transactions.
With version 5.5.3, results computations are 30 percent faster, on average. And a new computation scheduling algorithm reduces database load. In addition, database transactions use fewer resources. Queries are less intensive and the overall number of transactions has been reduced, also lowering database workload.
The new release detects late periodic operations, randomizes the start time for workstation backup, speeds the hot backup process, and improves other functions.
Aspyra recently entered into a 12-month non-exclusive letter of agreement with Allscripts, allowing the companies to promote some of each other’s products. Under the partnership, Aspyra will promote Allscripts’ practice management, electronic medical record, revenue cycle management, and emergency department solutions, while Allscripts promotes Aspyra’s laboratory and radiology information systems and picture archiving communication system.
The reseller agreement centers on the Allscripts Professional practice management/EMR system, MyWay practice management/ EMR/claims management product, PayerPath revenue cycle management solution, and Allscripts emergency department products, as well as Aspyra’s CyberLab LIS, CyberRad RIS, AccessNet PACS, AccessRad RIS/PACS, and AccessMed Specialty PACS products.
Siemens Healthcare is now offering version 5.0 of its EasyLink informatics product, which connects multiple instruments to a laboratory information system to consolidate patient data management. The latest version provides customers with workflow enhancements, connectivity to new instruments, and a fully integrated Web-based quality control pack-age.
The Web-based QC package provides real-time access to data for troubleshooting or external analysis and audit trails and real-time remote access to patient data for multiple users at multiple sites.
Version 5.0 also supports several languages and offers reports and data exports in formats compatible with the products of third-party vendors, among other features.
The Health Information Trust Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 health care-related companies and technology vendors, has introduced a common security framework for electronic health information.
The framework is intended to standardize health information technology security practices. It includes a best-practices security implementation manual, standards and regulations cross-reference matrix, and readiness assessment tool kit.
The framework is intended to help providers share patient data on-site and remotely while protecting access to online medical records. Software vendors can use it to design standardized security features for their products.
A coalition of providers, insurers, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, device manufacturers, and other stakeholders developed the framework. Licensing information is available at hitrustcentral.net.
The claims clearinghouse MedAvant Healthcare Solutions has changed its name to Capario.
“Our motivation behind the re-branding is to better show who we are today—a company with a national scope that provides innovative revenue cycle management solutions enabling health care organizations to optimize business performance in today’s challenging health care environment,” says Andrew Lawson, president of Capario.
Among Capario’s services are real-time eligibility verification, electronic remittance management, business intelligence reporting, and automated claims status tracking.
The Institute for Transfusion Medicine has licensed four products from Mediware Blood Center Technologies for its recruitment efforts in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The institute will use Mediware’s customer relationship management software, which includes CallTrak, RecruitTrak, CoordinatorTrak, and QualityTrak.
Global Med Technologies’ Inlog subsidiary has licensed its EdgeLab laboratory information system to Fontainebleau Hospital, located near Paris. EdgeLab is marketed as Labo Serveur in France.
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.