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Digital pathology is gaining in popularity because it enables faster, more efficient collaboration between pathologists and greater access to data for research purposes.
Digital pathology is gaining in popularity because it enables faster, more efficient collaboration between pathologists and greater access to data for research purposes. Instead of waiting for physical slide delivery, pathologists and researchers can now access and share digital images of crucial information when time matters most.
The availability of slide images on demand raises questions about whether providers need to continue storing slides onsite for quick retrieval and to meet regulatory requirements. The slides consume valuable real estate that may not always be appropriately secured or temperature-controlled.
Pathology storage was recently put to the test when a sizable laboratory in the US needed to give up half of its physical space with 30 days’ notice. This meant quickly moving all records: Medical documents containing sensitive data and protected health information, plus pathology specimens that required specific handling and controlled environmental conditions to avoid breakage, wax melting, or other forms of loss.
Despite the aggressive timeline, the process had to be governed by strict industry regulations. All assets had to be handled in accordance with HIPAA and associated privacy and security standards.
Managers at the lab made a plan to clean out the storage space, partnering with a company known for digital transformation and information management in heavily regulated industries.
Together, they prepped all the vital records, matching assets to specific storage environments to meet unique requirements. They instituted special packaging and transport for fragile slides and other breakable assets. Specimen blocks were moved to a temperature-controlled storage unit to preserve integrity.
The work was handled within the deadline, and the lab is saving approximately $2,000 per month in storage costs. More importantly, the pathology specimens are safe, organized, and available for easy recall.
Many medical facilities have recognized the risks of storing their slides and blocks in sub-optimal locations. The following five key drivers are propelling the trend of labs seeking offsite pathology storage management solutions.
For these reasons, lab managers are realizing that onsite doesn’t equate to secure and accessible. Alternatively, a modern physical storage solution does more than support the needs of pathology. It paves the way for digital pathology on demand.
Digital Pathology on Demand (DPOD) is a solution developed by Iron Mountain, which helped the US lab featured here to organize, transport, and securely store its assets, including fragile slides. DPOD combines professional services, hardware, and software. Digital images live on secure Iron Mountain storage, while the physical slides remain safe in Iron Mountain vaults. These images can be searched, annotated, shared to facilitate collaboration, and maintained for future use.
By improving speed access to high-value slide images, DPOD improves a lab’s ability to collaborate and function efficiently. The process involves converting stored physical glass pathology slides into digital images, capturing each slide’s metadata, and linking slide images to patients’ medical records.
Ultimately, labs and other medical facilities that are working with Iron Mountain are bringing their true mission into focus. As digital pathology expert Dr. Zoya Volynskaya said, “Digital pathology is more than just improving things for the pathologist. With increased accessibility and speed of collaboration there can be a huge range of beneficiaries.”