It’s a familiar pattern: Steve Jobs takes the stage clad in a black mock turtleneck and blue jeans; Apple releases a new mobile device; and companies worldwide scramble to create applications for the device—including companies that serve the pathology marketplace.
First it happened with the Apple iPhone: Jobs took the stage; the iPhone came out; and the Institute for Medical Informatics, in Oslo, Norway, developed the Interpath application for viewing high-quality resolutions of pathology slides on the iPhone. The pattern was then repeated for the iPod Touch and, more recently, for the iPad.
In spring 2009, Room4 Group Ltd., a United Kingdom-based software company that holds the commercial rights to Interpath, introduced the application for the iPhone. (See “Dialing for a diagnosis: Company offers pathology application for Apple iPhone,” CAP TODAY, April 2009, page 90.) The release followed feasibility studies that showed that diagnoses made remotely using the iPhone were no different than those rendered by pathologists in the lab.
This past March, Room4 Group announced the release of Interpath for the iPad2, thereby making the product available for all versions of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad using G3, G4, or WiFi networks.
“Interest in the application from pathologists is certainly higher on the iPad than the iPhone,” says John Maddison, PhD, director of Room4 Group. “[And] as use of digital pathology becomes more widespread, we expect to see sales volumes increase.”
As with the iPhone and iPod Touch, pathologists using Interpath on their iPads can shift an image any direction on the screen by dragging a finger across the screen in that direction. Pathologists can also pinpoint a specific area on an image by dragging two fingers over that area of the image on the screen. But with the iPad, all of this is accomplished on a much larger screen.
Interpath for the iPad also features a number of upgrades, including faster access to images, Dr. Maddison says. Users can call up images in about a half of a second. And the iPad provides a higher image resolution than the other devices, with 1,024 by 768 pixels.
Although not the only smartphone application available for virtual microscopy, Interpath is the only product that supports slide scanners and servers from Aperio and Hamamatsu, Dr. Maddison says.
So how does Interpath work? The laboratory uses a microscope slide scanner to scan slides and stores those images on a server. The laboratory then sends a link for a slide to the pathologist’s Apple device. The pathologist need only touch the link on the mobile device to access the image through the Interpath application.
Available through Apple’s online App Store, Interpath can be downloaded at no charge or for $179.99. The free version connects to Room4 Group’s internal servers and to the demonstration servers at Aperio and Hamamatsu, explains Dr. Maddison. With the $179.99 version, a user can connect to any server.
“We’ve had several thousand people download the free version,” Dr. Maddison says. “And the number of downloads for the iPad is now more than for the iPhone.” Consequently, Room4 Group is focusing more of its marketing efforts toward iPad users, he adds.
The pervasiveness of smartphones, especially the iPhone, and the growing use of iPads signals a trend in what some are calling “mHealth”—the use of mobile devices in health care.
A survey conducted last year by Manhattan Research predicts that about 82 percent of physicians will have smartphones by 2012, and half of that group will use their smartphones for administrative duties, continuing medical education, and patient care.
Another study, conducted by the health care marketing firm SDI, showed that 30 percent of physicians are accessing patient records through a mobile device.
To meet growing demand, Dr. Maddison says his company is expanding its smartphone options. “We’re looking to do a version for the [Google] Android and hope to release it by the end of the year,” he says.
But the extent to which smartphones or tablet computers like the iPad can be used in diagnostics is still uncertain.
While Dr. Maddison acknowledges that the HITECH Act of 2009 has helped advance mobile computing in health care, he says that whether an application such as Interpath should be classified as a medical device remains a controversial issue. “It’s fuzzy,” he admits. “From the FDA’s point of view, it cannot be used clinically because it has not been approved.”
Still, the usefulness of an application like Interpath for assisting a pathologist in making a diagnosis is unquestionable, says Dr. Maddison. Not only does the device allow pathologists to rapidly access and review a specimen slide any time and anywhere, but it can reduce the time it takes to obtain a second opinion. And, concludes Dr. Maddison, it has the potential to reduce unnecessary lab tests.
Covisint and JVHL, a network consortium of 129 hospital labs in Michigan, have announced that they will deliver a statewide solution that automatically standardizes lab orders and results while allowing physicians to use their preferred terminology and pick lists.
The new tool will be made available to Michigan’s 22,000 physicians through Amagine, a subsidiary of the American Medical Association, in collaboration with the Michigan State Medical Society.
Covisint, a Compuware company, will provide the technology platform necessary to convert all local lab terminology into Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes, or LOINC.
Phone: Phone: 800-521-9353
GGC Software Holdings has entered an agreement to purchase the enterprise software company Lawson Software for approximately $2 billion.
Lawson provides business application software, maintenance, and consulting to customers in a variety of industries, including health care. GGC Software Holdings is an affiliate of Infor and Golden Gate Capital.
The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2011.
Phone: Phone: 800-477-1357
Halfpenny Technologies has released the latest version of its ITF-GoDoc mobile results-reporting application, ITF-GoDoc MobileOE.
The application offers computerized provider order entry via Apple iPad and Android-capable tablets. Other features include billing information prompts, ask-at-order-entry questions, and medical necessity checks.
MobileOE can transfer orders to electronic health records, laboratory information systems, and billing and accounts receivable systems. The product is integrated with a browser-based workflow facilitator for patient service centers and hospital outpatient registration so users can validate orders prior to electronically uploading them to the LIS or registration system. The application generates and e-mails a bar-coded requisition directly to a patient’s mobile device, which can then be presented to the patient service center for order entry.
ITF-GoDoc allows physicians to securely receive critical value alerts and access lab result reports from their mobile devices. ITF-GoDoc MobileOE is part of Halfpenny’s client connectivity bundle, which also includes ITF-Hub and ITF-Portal.
Phone: Phone: 855-277-9100
McKesson has reported that its Horizon Lab laboratory information system received electronic health record modular certification, deeming the software capable of enabling providers to meet stage one meaningful use requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The LIS was certified by the Drummond Group, which operates as an Office of the National Coordinator Authorized Testing and Certification Body.
Phone: Phone: 415-983-8300
Royal Philips Electronics, Eindhoven, Netherlands, and NEC Corp., Tokyo, Japan, have signed an agreement under which the companies will jointly develop and market integrated digital pathology solutions.
The products, which will utilize the technology of Philips’ new high-throughput pathology slide scanner and NEC’s e-Pathologist cancer diagnosis assistance system, will allow users to analyze quantitatively the qualitative information derived from visually inspecting pathology slides.
The products initially will be used to assist in grading breast and prostate cancers.
Royal Philips Electronics
Phone: Phone: 800-934-7372
Phone: Phone: 800-338-9549
Data Innovations Europe and GLP Systems GmbH have signed a business partner agreement to use Data Innovations’ Instrument Manager middleware as part of GLP’s SMS-3 automation system, introduced in Europe last month.
The new SMS-3 track system can handle 6,000 tubes per hour. It includes a high-speed transport mechanism and analytics modules for most track-ready analyzers.
The Germany-based companies GLP Systems GmbH and M-u-t will co-market the SMS-3 system. The product is expected to be introduced in the United States in 2012.
Data Innovations Europe
Phone: Phone: +32(2)3322413
GLP Systems GmbH
Phone: Phone: +49(40)30083685
Spokane, Wash.-based PAML has signed a contract to purchase 4medica’s cloud-based software-as-a-service clinical integration platform. The product will provide the reference laboratory with automated order processing, results exchange, and patient demographics data-sharing capability.
PAML is owned by Providence Health & Services and Catholic Health Initiatives.
Phone: Phone: 310-695-3300
Dr. Aller is director of informatics in the Department of Pathology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He can be reached at email@example.com. Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.