An Image Management System (IMS) should improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your pathology lab. Finding the right IMS plays a critical role in what you can achieve with your digital pathology (DP) system. The digital pathology ecosystem is fragmented, but a good IMS can bridge these gaps - they are designed to broker communication between systems.
The components of a functioning DP system come from multiple vendors, and customizations are needed to manage your unique requirements. When looking for an IMS, it is important to consider how open and scalable it is, and whether the system can integrate with your workflow and IT infrastructure.
We’ve created a checklist to help you evaluate an IMS based on 5 different factors. Whether you are assessing your current system or looking for a new one, use this checklist to ensure your IMS is the best fit:
Your digital pathology system will likely be leveraged by multiple departments. Depending on your institution, you may need to consider the workflow needs of stakeholders in research, education, and clinical departments. For instance, pre-clinical drug discovery research, education for medical and CME training, remote consults for second opinions and intraoperative consults for rapid onsite assessments and frozen section review are common use-cases for digital pathology today. It’s possible to choose an IMS that meets the needs of multiple departments and use cases. You can start by considering these questions:
☐ Would you like to have efficient systems to organize and access data?
☐ Do you want a modern platform with built-in tools for image viewing, auditing, collaboration, permissions, metadata tracking, search, etc.?
☐ Do you need an open platform that can interact with other systems and databases?
☐ Would you like to enable self-directed learning - anywhere, from any device?
☐ Would you like to deliver lessons and assessments with interactive WSI elements?
☐ Would you like to organize your training material in an e-learning platform designed for anatomic pathology?
☐ Would you like to save time via automated grading and track learning outcomes?
☐ Would you like to cover multiple ORs, while on call, without leaving your office?
☐ Would you like rapid and global access to second opinions?
☐ Would you benefit from a personalized dashboard for your digital cases not managed by your LIS (e.g. for QA, remote review, consults, etc.)?
Understanding how you will be using an IMS and your use-case will help set the foundation of your needs and guide your search.
Whole slide scanners
The choice of IMS will limit the image formats you can use, and therefore, which whole slide scanners you can purchase (or which IMS to purchase if you already have scanners). Keep in mind that your IMS should be flexible in case your imaging needs change over time based on case volume, lab consolidation, collaboration and imaging modalities (e.g. brightfield, and multispectral).
☐ Would you like to have broad support for WSI formats and scanners?
☐ Would you like to work with modalities such as brightfield, fluorescence, Z-stacks and radiology in one system?
☐ Would you like to automate archival and sorting of your images as they are generated by a scanner?
Pathcore supports 22+ proprietary WSI formats including brightfield, fluorescence, Z-stacked and DICOM images.
Image analysis software
Today, there are several solutions for whole slide image analysis, and there are many more solutions in the future given the effort in on AI and machine learning. As these solutions emerge, you and your team are bound to take interest in at least a few.
☐ Does your IMS have bi-directional integrations with image analysis tools?
☐ Can you leverage Matlab and Python for custom image analysis algorithms?
☐ Can your IMS support apps from 3rd party vendors?
Pathcore supports bi-directional integration with IA tools like Visiopharm and HALO and allows you to incorporate analysis results from Matlab, Python, and 3rd party analysis tools.
Open Application Programming Interface (API) for Integrations
Do you know which systems to integrate with your IMS to achieve the workflow that your organization needs? To start, LIS integration is often required. Second, there is an increasing number of in-house and commercial systems that need to integrate with your workflow (e.g. gross imaging, dictation, synoptic reporting, data visualization, etc.).
☐ Does your IMS let you easily integrate third-party systems?
☐ Does it let you customize your workflow using an open API?
Pathcore creates a unified digital workflow by bridging all your digital pathology assets (including third party systems) with built-in integrations and RESTful APIs.
Did you know that there’s an ISO standard format for storing whole slide images and the associated metadata? Learn more about DICOM standard for digital pathology here.
☐ Do your vendors value standards like DICOM, IHE and HL7?
☐ Do they offer products based on these standards that would future-proof your technology investments?
For all of the above reasons, we recommend choosing a flexible system as the core of your digital pathology workflow. A good IMS makes it easy to plug in new functionality and update APIs without the risk of human error or the loss of core functionality. Choosing the right IMS allows you to build a solid, dependable system that can save you plenty of headaches in the future.
Future-proof your digital pathology work - implement an open, agnostic IMS.