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  Getting everyone on the same digital page




November 2007
Feature Story

Anne Paxton

Digital pathology imaging standards are the goal of Working Group 26, a committee of the Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine, or DICOM, group. Victor Brodsky, MD, who has been a member of the working group for two years, says DICOM has already developed similar standards for radiology and other medical fields, and manufacturers have implemented them successfully. The pathology working group is trying to create standards that would allow interoperability between scanners, image storage systems, and viewers.

Once pathology standards are agreed upon, they could also facilitate: (1) applying digital imaging to storing photographs of specimen labels, whose bar codes could be recognized, for quality control purposes; (2) developing a common format for morphometric analysis; and (3) investigating acceptable thresholds of image compression that would not compromise pathologists' ability to diagnose.

But many different companies have their own standards for storing images and are proposing that pathologists use theirs. "At this point the pathology imaging standards arena appears to be fragmented," Dr. Brodsky says. "To me it doesn't look like the separate pieces of equipment produced by different companies, such as scanners, image storage systems, and viewers, can currently interact, and making this possible was the whole idea behind building a DICOM pathology imaging standard."

Nevertheless, a working proposal has already been through the required public review. "We're fully expecting within the next half year to put a final version of the supplement out for ballot and have it added to the DICOM standard," Dr. Brodsky says.

Anne Paxton is a writer in Seattle.


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