Pathology plays a critical role in the ability to diagnose and create an effective treatment plan for patients. An important part of the preparation process for a patient’s second opinion consult is having access to the pathology materials so additional testing can be done on existing specimens. Most cancer centers will not even see a patient – or won’t schedule an appointment – until they obtain the pathology.
There are some obvious factors that slow this acquisition process – not knowing where to obtain the materials, samples being in storage or out at another facility, etc. But for many cancer centers and pathology departments, there are some less-obvious issues that can impede the retrieval of this critical piece of the patient’s diagnosis.
It comes down to the language of pathology.
As a leading health care technology company, eHealth Technologies offers fast and seamless access to comprehensive, clinically organized medical records. We are often tasked with retrieving critical pathology samples for a patient’s new provider. Since our goal is to continually focus on how we can provide patient information as quickly as possible to clinical teams, we have identified an important barrier to securing pathology for new patients.
As oncology departments prepare to see a new patient, they do their due diligence by requesting key things from the patient’s past medical history such as labs, images, and reports. For oncology patients, pathology will always be on this list.
However, we have discovered that the way a request is worded is a critical factor in procuring the appropriate materials for review. If the request is vaguely worded, the pathologist working on the patient’s case might not receive the necessary materials to confirm a diagnosis and create a proper treatment plan.
Ensuring that requesters are using the most specific language possible for their request will:
- Eliminate extra back-and-forth between the requester and the pathology department
- Reduce frustration for both the requester and the pathology department staff
- Avoid delays in the pathology department’s ability to fulfill the department’s request
So, what immediate steps can cancer centers take?
- Be aware of how and what you are requesting from the Pathology Department. Using precise language drives efficiency and ensures that the pathology department sends exactly what is needed. It is critical for cancer center staff and the pathology department to maintain open communication to understand the nuances of specimens and how they are prepared.
- Standardize the request process so there is no room for error on the language in the request. Cancer departments work with eHealth Technologies and its advanced technology platform to retrieve pathology materials. The request template development and set-up process in our online portal ensures that an accurate request is made every time. Templates vary from one specialty area to another – taking the guesswork out of what is needed for distinct types of patients. This eases the burden on cancer center staff who are already pulled in multiple directions.
Here is an example of a typical pathology materials request versus eHealth Technologies’ specifically worded template.
General Request Template prior to eHealth Technologies’ discussion with pathologist:
Revamped Request Template based on pathologist’s specific sample needs:
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Together, we are all working toward the same goal: fast, effective treatment for patients. By fine-tuning the way pathology is requested, we can expedite the process, reduce administrative burdens experienced by administrators, clinicians, and patients, and ensure timely, accurate samples so that clinicians can provide superior patient care.