Both the introduction of more standardized interface protocols and the emergence of information-based systems have helped to provide the necessary framework for the continual development of new automation technology with increased connectability and integration. This environment has led to a rapid influx of new choices for automated systems, integrated workflow solutions, and other technology to become available to the previously under-served anatomic pathology laboratory. Below are some examples of integration:
Automated instruments may communicate with the LIS in either a uni-directional (one way) or bi-directional (two way) fashion. It may make sense for some instruments, such as those used for staining, to only communicate uni-directionally, while other processes may require the capability to perform bi-directional information transfer.
Creating an interface from the instrumentation to the LIS should be readily accomplished by an experienced LIS vendor. Interfaced instruments can provide benefits such as the reduction or elimination of manual processes, including manual order entry and the transcription of patient and specimen data. Options for interfaced, automated instruments, often using barcode technology, are rapidly expanding. Automated microtomes have been available for some time, but now often have the added features of at-the-station interfaced terminals with barcode scanning and label printing options. This completely eliminates manual case number transcription during microtomy, which decreases the error potential inherent to manual transcription for slide labeling. Cassettes are printed with identifying barcodes that can be scanned throughout the process stream, reducing misidentification errors. Paraffin embedding has also been automated and used to successfully orient and embed at least some of the less complicated specimens.
Automating Human Transactions
Human transaction automation involves manual processes which are error prone, such as order entry during accessioning, that are now utilizing barcode technology with an interface to the LIS. This improved process not only reduces manual order entry and transcription errors, but also provides a tracking method throughout the entire process. Billing functions can more easily be streamlined by linking order entry definitions and dictionaries to procedures such as special stains for the desired tissue types. Final report automation is also available, which is customizable to your facility's desired appearance and content specifications.
These are just a few examples of the ever-increasing automation choices that can be linked to your LIS and which are available on the market for histology laboratories.