By: Michelle Donowsky, RT(T), Executive Director of Clinical Optimization, eHealth Technologies

A key practice for cancer facilities is re-reading tissue slides before seeing a new patient or offering a second opinion. In one study from an academic medical center, a re-read of pathology slides found errors from the first read on up to 20% of patient slides. A second read can make a life-saving difference to a patient getting the right treatment.

Transporting biologic material essential to a patient’s treatment is a high-stakes process. Any mis-steps – and the specimen and any life-saving information it holds –  is gone. Because of these challenges we are seeing a growing number of requests for the retrieval of pathology slides. The requests originate from both cancer centers and, increasingly, directly from pathology departments.

Having a process available that provides delivery of pathology slides quickly, with an emphasis on efficiency and safety is key. Is your department’s pathology slide request process as efficient as possible?

Below are our top best practices for the retrieval of pathology slides that reduce the risks associated with retrieval and delivery:

Ability to get the slides directly to the right hands. 

For large health systems that have a number of offsite locations, getting the slides to pathology can involve many steps. The requestor will often be the one who receives the slides, but then the slides have to be transported again to the main pathology lab for reading. These extra actions leave the door open for slides to be lost or damaged, multiple times. A standardized request/delivery process helps ensure slides are delivered directly to the main pathology lab.

Delivery tracking mechanisms in the process reduces a lot of risk. 

If a patient’s pathology slides are lost, there is no way to recoup them. Leveraging a delivery company to deliver specimens to the requester’s site, as part of the standardized process, means that there is always information about where that package is located. That tracking information is updated and maintained real-time in our patient portal, so clients can log in at any moment and understand the delivery status of a specimen.

Turnaround time reduced from weeks to days. 

Hospital departments requesting pathology slides often report that it can take up to a month for the slides to be delivered. That’s weeks of extra time a clinician must wait to access critical information about their patient. It is also time that a patient waits for information on their treatment plan. Not only can our team handle high volumes of requests, but the average turn-around time is 4.14 days. Reducing that wait time to just days allows providers to develop treatment plans faster, providing a more streamlined, positive experience for patients.

Providing access to pathology slides that can reveal critical information impacting a patient’s treatment plan, is an important piece of the puzzle for cancer centers. Ensuring that your center has the most streamlined and efficient process possible benefits not just your clinical team, but your patients as well.