IT is enabling faster, more efficient patient treatment. The Department of Pathology at Oulu University Hospital (OUH) is our partner in the development of information systems for pathology.
The system must support and serve professionals in their work in such a way that more reliable information can be easily obtained to provide a background to patient care.
'If digitisation is realised in full, it will offer enormous benefits. When images are viewed on a computer screen and the necessary information is easy to find and transfer, workflows accelerate, consultation between colleagues becomes easier and analysis becomes more objective. We are also aiming to get rid of paper as far as possible,' says OUH Pathologist Juha Näpänkangas.
Pathology professionals and engineers working together to develop a solution
The OUH Department of Pathology has been actively involved in developing the QPati pathology system for several years, focusing on highly practical solutions to facilitate everyday work. Collaboration is intensifying further. The longer-term objective is to realise a solution that enables entirely new operating models to be employed in pathology. Pathology is gradually transitioning to Tieto's Lifecare solution.
In practice, joint development has entailed discussion, brainstorming, testing and evaluation. The OUH Department of Pathology has expressed its wishes for the system and has described workflows and data requirements at various phases. The aim is for users to benefit from the system to the maximum possible extent in a simple manner.
'When information systems are developed, engineers implement the system. The involvement of pathology professionals is an extremely important factor in ensuring that the implementation addresses the needs of the field,' says Tieto's Project Manager, Joni Haatainen.
Our pathology system is in extensive use in Finland and other Nordic countries. In addition to OUH, several other organisations are involved in development work to varying extents. Wide-ranging collaboration ensures that the system is developed to comprehensively address a range of customer needs.
Efficiency and solutions for the laboratory's working culture
Usability is at the core of development. Essential information can be accessed by consultants in as few clicks as possible and in a clear manner whenever it is needed.
In the laboratory, tracking the progress of samples enables operational development and appropriate resourcing. Work lists are updated to reflect the actual circumstances to make operations easier to forecast and plan, both at the unit level and in various work phases. Urgent cases can be prioritised without delay.
'When we can manage the workflow better efficiency increases. This has an impact on the management of the laboratory's workflow as a whole. The inconsistent arrival and flow of samples is currently a challenge for us. When the bottlenecks are identified, we can find solutions,' Näpänkangas says.
Analysis software enables more accurate measurements and calculations of the results of immunohistochemical stains, introducing a quantitative element to pathology work. Positive experiences have been obtained with these methods around the world.
A good information system reduces the consultancy threshold
Lifecare Pathology is a comprehensive solution that can be integrated into other systems to provide enhanced support for better patient treatment. Data is stored and transferred as needed from an appointment or referral all the way to the patient's medical record.
'Our most significant modernisation projects in the future include a three-way connection between the pathology solution, referral–response traffic and scanning operations. We expect the increased efficiency of operations to bring big benefits. This will be visible right down to the clinics themselves,' Näpänkangas says.
Every year, approximately 130,000 slides prepared from tissue samples travel through the OUH Department of Pathology. In addition, the Department studies cytological cell samples. The Department employs around 20 pathologists.
Solutions for limited resources, assistance for patient care
'A functional information system and digitised samples make it easier to approach colleagues for their opinions. Specialist physicians can also provide consultation, sometimes from other countries. When it is easy to request a consultation, this opportunity is better used. This enables further specialisation among pathologists and puts comprehensive expertise within the reach of smaller units," says Näpänkangas.
OUH is keenly monitoring the large-scale pathology digitisation efforts taking place in Sweden.
'The development of pathology information systems in Sweden was spurred by a lack of resources and solutions have emerged to address this problem. When the information system supports the work, efficiency increases and resource problems are eased,' Näpänkangas says.
'It is positive that Tieto is a pan-Nordic operator. The system is not being produced for just one narrowly focused language area – we are working with a company that has a very large number of customers,' says Juha Näpänkangas.