College of American Pathologists
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cap today

July 2003
Raymond D. Aller, MD,
Hal Weiner and
Michael Weilert, MD

Pathology informatics poised for a push

Today, more than two decades after it was introduced, pathology informatics is poised to move into a growth stage. “In essence, it’s now reaching for critical mass,” says Bruce Friedman, MD, pathologist and professor of pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School,
Ann Arbor.

The discipline of pathology informatics, which involves using computers to manage and analyze clinical and research pathology data, has been picking up steam during the past 10 years, but the last five years have been particularly strong, says Dr. Friedman, who has been involved in pathology informatics for 21 years and has played a key role in developing the discipline. Three factors attest to that growth, Dr. Friedman says.

First, three sizable annual meetings focus on pathology informatics: Automated Information Management in the Clinical Laboratory (AIMCL), Ann Arbor, which has been held for the past 21 years; Advancing Pathology Informatics, Imaging, and the Internet (APIII), recently renamed Advancing Practice, Instruction and Innovation through Informatics, Pittsburgh, first held in 1996; and the American Association for Clinical Chemistry’s Lab Portal Jamboree, which is in its third year. Pathology informatics is also a topic at the annual meetings of such organizations as the College of American Pathologists, American Society for Clinical Pathology, Clinical Laboratory Management Association, and AACC, as well as at the Executive War College.

Second, the Association for Pathology Informatics, formed in the summer of 2000, has grown to approximately 220 dues-paying members.

Third, increasing numbers of academic centers are recognizing pathology informatics as a formal area of disciplinary inquiry. “The better academic departments feel deficient if they don’t have some expertise in this area,” Dr. Friedman says.

About 50 academic divisions of pathology informatics exist, all of which have at least one faculty member whose main responsibility is to develop, implement, maintain, and improve lab information systems, says Michael Becich, MD, PhD, chairman of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Shadyside. Dr. Becich, who has been working with Dr. Friedman since 1991 to further pathology informatics, directs UPMC’s Center for Pathology Informatics.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, through its Center for Pathology Informatics and Center for Biomedical Informatics, and Johns Hopkins University, through its Center for Computer Science in Medicine, offer formal fellowship training in pathology informatics.

Dr. Becich stresses that growth of this discipline is critical to other medical specialties, especially oncology. For instance, he says, the University of Pittsburgh, which has 10 pathology informatics faculty members and more than $13.3 million in funding and research in this area, is moving aggressively to use what has been learned in pathology informatics to transform cancer informatics.

“Now, the majority of work needs to be done in what I would consider the true research environment around pathology informatics—true basic science around what pathology informatics is—and our impact on our brethren in medicine,” says Dr. Becich. “Only a few [academic] divisions have such intellectual rigor and discipline. But every program I talk to is building in
this direction."

Desktop printer designed to meet proposed FDA rules

Zebra Technologies has unveiled the TLP 3842, a dedicated thermal
label printer for the desktop, in anticipation of FDA guidelines on unit-of-use marking.

The printer offers reduced space symbology support, 300 dots-per-inch high-resolution printing, and such connectivity features as USB communications interfaces and the optional internal ZebraNet PrintServer II.

The printer was introduced after the FDA proposed a rule that would require individual medication doses to be labeled with its national drug code number encoded in a bar code. The FDA plans to issue its final rule by year-end and proposed that it take effect three years later. Zebra Technologies

Connectivity for Stratus CS analyzer

Dade Behring Holdings is offering a connectivity solution for the Stratus CS analyzer in acute care diagnostic environments via a strategic partnership with Telcor Inc.

The interface management tool, Quick-Linc, automatically inputs patient test results into the patient record, ensuring that required data is captured for electronic medical record and billing files. Dade Behring Holdings

FTC action says it all: do not call

As if spam e-mail isn’t enough, as we discussed in last month’s “Newsbytes” column, spam voice mail messages, or telemarketing calls, are also wasting our time.

Thirty states have a “do not call” list service, which means that 20 states do not. But now the Federal Trade Commission is stepping in and providing consumers with the ability to place their phone numbers on a national “do not call” registry. After October it will be illegal for most telemarketers to call a telephone number listed on the registry. Those that do could be fined up to $11,000 for each violation.

The FTC will require telemarketers to check the national registry every 90 days for phone numbers they are prohibited from calling. Consumers will be able to register online or by telephone starting this month. Telephone sign-up will be phased in over an eight-week period, starting on the West Coast.

Some businesses, however, are exempt from this process, including companies with which a consumer has an existing relationship, banks, insurance companies, airlines, and telephone companies. Also exempt are solicitations for donations, surveys, customer satisfaction, and debt collection, as well as all business-to-business calls. But if you ask an organization not to call you, it must honor your request. You should document the date, time, and person with whom you spoke, and request a written confirmation that the company will remove you from its calling list. For more information about the FTC’s initiative. —Hal Weiner

New version of Instrument Manager released

Data Innovations has introduced Instrument Manager version 8.02, the latest release of its data-management system.

Version 8.02 runs on Caché version 5, adding support for Windows XP. It can hold patient results based on Westgard quality control rules and notify users of this event via pop-up window, pager, or e-mail.

A data-collection option allows users to collect data from one or more connections and output that information to a text file. The user defines the data to be collected and the file format.

In a separate announcement, Data Innovations Asia reported that Venus Technology Co. (VTEC) and Fortune Julong Technology GOY (Julong) have joined its business partner program.

VTEC, Bangkok, Thailand, a marketer of specialty medical products, will distribute Instrument Manager and ImExpress, Data Innovations’ medical device and laboratory instrument interfacing product.

Julong, Dongguang, China, develops hospital and laboratory information systems. The company, which has more than 200 hospital customers throughout China, will use ImExpress.


Memorial Health Services of Southern California has gone live with Xifin’s accounts receivable management system and services. Xifin

Texas Health Resources has contracted to install Cerner’s PathNet laboratory information system in the 13 hospitals in its system. Cerner Corp.

Dr. Aller is director of bioterrorism preparedness and response for Los Angeles County Public Health Acute Communicable Diseases. He can be reached at Mr. Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at Dr. Weilert is director of laboratories, Community Hospitals of Central California, Fresno. He can be reached at