The Norman Institute of Pathology (NIP) attached to the Christian Medical College hospital has acquired the country’s first state-of-the-art, fully automated, paperless pathology diagnostic equipment. The equipment will help improve quality, reduce defects in workflow, save time and improve the final output to patients and doctors.
It comprises a pathology grossing station, integrated image analyser and data reporting system, and costs around Rs 2.2 crore. The equipment has been co-funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA), with an equal contribution from CMC.
Dr Sheila Nair, head of the department of pathology, said the newly introduced pathology grossing station can help in starting the diagnosis by selecting the most representative tissue portions. The tissue processing cassettes that were labelled by hand will now be bar-coded with a paperless labelling device that uses low-cost heat foil impression technique. The processed tissue embedded in paraffin wax are studied with a diamond etching tool that entails considerable cost reduction, she added. She said more than 45,000 biopsies, 25,000 cytology specimens and 300 autopsies were being handled in a year at NIP. Biopsy specimens from several peripheral hospitals and referrals from pathologists from other medical centres seeking expert opinion were also being handled. NIP also dealt with a variety of biopsies with sup-specialties in the areas of haematopathology, gastrointestinal, liver pathology, neuropathology and dermatopathology. Nair said the arrival of digital pathology was heralded by the introduction of an in-house ‘anatomic pathology laboratory information system’ in 2006. In order to manage the large workload, the department had to introduce tools based on recent technology that elevated the laboratory on par with the best in the world.
In the cytology domain, the integrated image analyser helped in the screening of cervical smears (pap smears) directly, thus reducing the time by 1 to 2 minutes per case as against the manual screening that consumed 15 minutes. A voice recognition software integrated into the system enables better and faster reporting of cases. Another software- mTutive xPert- creates standardised structured data reporting for cancer cases, explicit reports for surgeons, oncologists while collating vital data on cancer patients.
The servers, network elements and computer hardware for these produces have been supported by the US grant. Nair said USAID-ASHA funded programme had enabled CMC to reach out to the poor and the needy in the region, while delivering high quality patient care. The hospital had already received 23 grants from USAID and ASHA since 1982.