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Analytical Cellular Pathology
Volume 35 (2012), Issue 1, Pages 3-10

How to Introduce Virtual Microscopy (VM) in Routine Diagnostic Pathology: Constraints, Ideas, and Solutions

Klaus Kayser,1 Stephan Borkenfeld,2 and Gian Kayser3

1Charite, University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
2IAT (International Academy of Pathology), Heidelberg, Germany
3Institute of Pathology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Context: Virtual microscopy which is the diagnostic work with digitized microscopic images in tissue – based diagnosis is in its childhood in being implemented in routine diagnosis. Until today, only a few pathology institutions take use of this new technology, although it is available since several years. Why?

Design: Virtual microscopy requires a new workflow organisation in the pathologist's diagnostic procedure. At a first view, the laboratory workflow seems to remain untouched to a high degree. However, the used laboratory information system (LIS), which is commonly built in a hierarchic order, has to be adjusted at its highest levels, i.e., diagnosis statement, quality evaluation, submission to the clinician (hospital information system), and feedback to the laboratory. Therefore, the laboratory's workflow is involved at all levels too, and the LIS has to be changed or adjusted to the requirements of VM. VM systems are usually equipped with a viewer that mimics the viewing of a conventional microscope, and do not offer access to sensitive nodes of the LIS. Similar, LIS are usually closed and fixed systems because of data security and certification demands. Thus, VM systems have to possess communication access at different LIS levels together with steering commands for the LIS in close association with the diagnostic quality and efficiency (for example demands for additional stains, immunohistochemical or quantitative image methods, etc.), as well as expert consultation, or panel discussion.

Outcome: An implementation of an open and active LIS – VM management system could significantly promote the introduction of VM into routine diagnostic surgical pathology. The management system has to coordinate and translate the demands of VM to LIS (and vice versa), and to assure the communication with HIS. Mandatory features include streaming of the laboratory workflow, feedback commands to LIS, as well as regulation of temporary priority levels.

Conclusion: A successful implementation of VM systems in routine tissue-based diagnosis requires communicative management systems as long as VM is considered to be a “stand alone system” that just mimics a conventional microscope.