The California Telepathology Service: UCLA's experience in deploying a regional digital pathology subspecialty consultation network

Thomas Chong, M. Fernando Palma-Diaz, Craig Fisher, Dorina Gui, Nora L. Ostrzega, Geoffrey Sempa, Anthony E. Sisk, Mark Valasek, Beverly Y. Wang, Jonathan Zuckerman, Chris Khacherian, Scott Binder, W. Dean Wallace

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Abstract

Background: The need for extending pathology diagnostic expertise to more areas is now being met by the maturation of technology that can effectively deliver this level of care. The experience and lessons learned from our successfully deployed International Telepathology Service (ITS) to a hospital system in China guided us in starting a domestic telepathology network, the California Telepathology Service (CTS). Many of the lessons learned from the ITS project informed our decision-making for the CTS. New challenges were recognized and overcome, such as addressing the complexity and cost-benefit tradeoffs involved in setting up a digital consultation system that competes with an established conventional glass slide delivery system. Methods: The CTS is based on a hub-and-spoke telepathology network using Leica Biosystems whole-slide image scanners and the eSlide Manager (eSM Version 12.3.3.7055, Leica Biosystems) digital image management software solution. The service currently comprises six spoke sites (UC San Diego [UCSD], UC Irvine [UCI], UC Davis, Northridge Hospital Medical Center [NHMC], Olive View Medical Center [OVMC], and Children's Hospital Los Angeles) and one central hub site (UCLA Medical Center). So far, five sites have been validated for telepathology case consultations following established practice guidelines, and four sites (UCI, UCSD, NHMC, and OVMC) have activated the service. Results: For the active spoke sites, we reviewed the volume, turnaround time (TAT), and case types and evaluated for utility and value. From May 2017 to July 2018, a total of 165 cases were submitted. Of note, digital consultations were particularly advantageous for preliminary kidney biopsy diagnoses (avg TAT 0.7 day). Conclusion: For spoke sites, telepathology provided shortened TAT and significant financial savings over hiring faculty with expertise to support a potentially low-volume service. For the hub site, the value includes exposure to educationally valuable cases, additional caseload volume to support specialized services, and improved communication with referring facilities over traditional carrier mail. The creation of a hub-and-spoke telepathology network is an expensive undertaking, and careful consideration needs to be given to support the needs of the clinical services, acquisition and effective deployment of the appropriate equipment, network requirements, and laboratory workflows to ensure a successful and cost-effective system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalJournal of Pathology Informatics
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Digital pathology
  • telemedicine
  • telepathology
  • whole slide imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications

Cite this

Chong, T., Fernando Palma-Diaz, M., Fisher, C., Gui, D., Ostrzega, N. L., Sempa, G., Sisk, A. E., Valasek, M., Wang, B. Y., Zuckerman, J., Khacherian, C., Binder, S., & Dean Wallace, W. (2019). The California Telepathology Service: UCLA's experience in deploying a regional digital pathology subspecialty consultation network. Journal of Pathology Informatics, 10(1), [31]. https://doi.org/10.4103/jpi.jpi_22_19