They provide important benefits for cytology labs and their customers.
Laboratory information systems have enabled many advances in the laboratory to support patient care. In the field of cytology a comprehensive laboratory information system can help cytotechs, cytologists, and laboratory owners efficiently meet the needs of the lab as a business, including streamlined workflows, regulatory compliance, and superior reporting capabilities. Additionally, the cytology LIS can be integrated to EMRs and outreach solutions as well as provide full lab automation through connections to instrumentation and physician offices, all supporting the reduction of human error and streamlining test order entry and results retrieval.
As early as 1983 software programs to assist in the production of large volumes of testing handled by cytology laboratories were developed to aid laboratory staff in providing accurate reports to physicians. Early systems included many of the features that are still standard today, among them reporting, data storage, and elementary data mining. During the past thirty years software has made significant leaps in capabilities; we now have the ability to tailor the software to support the unique workflow of individual laboratories with automated enhancements (barcode labeling, specimen tracking, automated and customized report delivery, reflex testing, billing system interfaces, and more), providing users with the resources necessary to focus on their primary functions: processing and resulting tests.
Workflow and cytology information systems
There are a host of cytology information systems that offer a variety of customizations to fit the cytology lab's needs. The core of a good cytology LIS is the ability to apply case numbers to each case as laboratories enter orders and receive specimens (either through paper requisition or electronic orders) as the case is accessioned. The LIS will then be able to automatically produce labels for each specimen for tracking purposes throughout processing and storage.
Once the processing and staining have been completed, the cytotech can screen a given case and enter a diagnosis directly within the software, either by typing directly within the window or through voice recognition software. Whether the laboratory uses Image Guided screening or manual screening methods, the software should enable easy notation for each slide through keyboard macros (shortcuts) or voice recognition with feedback. Some systems offer digitally spoken vocal feedback that lets the cytotech hear what data is being entered as it relates to each slide. Every possible descriptor should be coded from the slide reading to recommendations and diagnosis for easy data entry, allowing cytotechs and cytologists to focus more on the slides and less on the software used to capture the data.
Typically, negative cases will have a standard adequacy and category so that the case can be signed out by the cytotech and the report distributed to the client. A certain percentage of these normal cases will automatically be flagged out for rescreen based on any parameter the lab sets or the standard 10%. Some applications allow the lab to define rescreen rates per employee, supporting the evaluation and training of new employees or those that have been identified as having a need for retraining. Some labs or physicians are allowing patients direct access to negative results as provided by a progressive LIS vendor through secure web portal access.
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