KGH Pioneers New Telepathology
February 05, 2010
Ketchikan, Alaska - Imagine looking through a microscope in Bellingham,
Washington, and viewing a slide in Ketchikan, Alaska, and you
have the idea behind the new telepathology service that now links
the two cities. The new service allows surgeons in the operating
room at Ketchikan General Hospital real time consultation with
pathologists at Northwest Pathology in Bellingham. The pathologist
can change focus, illumination, magnification, and field of view
at will as he or she uses an online interface to examine a frozen
tissue slide prepared in Ketchikan.
Rachelle Britton, a
histotechnologist with PeaceHealth Laboratories in Ketchikan,
is looking at skin tissue with the telepathology equipment. Ketchikan
General Hospital is among the first hospitals in the country
to use telepathology.
Photograph courtesy Ketchikan General Hospital
Ketchikan General Hospital
(KGH), in partnership with the PeaceHealth Laboratories and Northwest
Pathology, is among the first hospitals in North America to use
telepathology in an intraoperative setting. This technology has
been used for research, academic instruction and general pathology
consultations but KGH is pioneering this use of the technology,
which is especially beneficial to smaller, rural critical access
hospitals where technical experts may not be readily available.
The use of this technology
will improve patient care and reduce travel costs. Here is how
it works: a surgeon at KGH submits tissue for pathology review
during a procedure. A histotechnologist at the Ketchikan lab
will freeze the tissue, prepare the slide and scan it. In Bellingham,
one of the pathologists will log into an online site to review
the whole slide image and call the surgeon directly in the O.R.
to discuss the results.
"This type of in-the-operating-room or 'intraoperative'
consultation using telepathology is just as accurate and timely
as if the pathologist was right there in the Ketchikan lab,"
explains Dr. Berle Stratton, Cytopathologist with Northwest Pathology.
"Now, we can have immediate analysis of a frozen tissue
sample for any type of surgery, even emergencies, conducted during
normal business hours without the delay and expense of arranging
for an onsite visit."
Previously, that pathologist
really did need to be onsite, and was flown up to Ketchikan in
advance to attend a planned, elective surgery.
"Virtual access to experts
is increasingly in demand throughout the medical world,"
says PeaceHealth Laboratories CEO Ran Whitehead. "This new
service is an exciting first step for our laboratory system as
we explore how such technology will allow us to improve patient
safety and better serve our clients."
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