Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital now has a technology most regional hospitals in smaller towns don’t: a digital microscope. In prior years, the hospital lab used an optical microscope to process cell samples.
“We are so excited that Saint Thomas Health made funds available for this and other technology improvements that we have so desperately needed,” said Laboratory Director Kevin Adcock. “The digital microscope gives us the ability to capture images of abnormal cells, save the images and email them immediately to a board-certified hematologist or pathologist for screening and report. We see a lot of patients here who are undergoing cancer treatment because we have an oncologist on site weekly. Before, with the optical microscope, we couldn’t save the images, and each of our lab technologists could only see one field at a time. Now, we have more eyes on each slide in our lab, and we have the ability to immediately email the sample to our board-certified pathologist or board-certified hematologist, and receive an immediate response.” Saint Thomas Health is a part of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.
Adcock says the end result is the sample finding is much more accurate, and the quick turnaround time means disease processes can be arrested at an earlier stage and treatment can begin sooner.
“Under the old system, we identified abnormal cells, created extra slides, sent them by courier to our pathologist in another city, and were often looking at a 72-hour turnaround time,” he added. “Now, as soon as we email the samples, we follow up with a phone call to get a verbal report.”
Adcock says all lab personnel are trained to use the new microscope and the new process is “working great,” he said. Recently, a patient was hospitalized, and cell samples were sent to the lab for review with the new digital microscope. “We identified an abnormal cell which can indicate a disease process related to sepsis,” Adcock said. “We captured the image digitally, emailed it to our pathologist, and had an affirmative answer in five minutes. We immediately were able to report the results to the patient’s physician so the seriousness of the patient’s condition could be gauged and treatment could be initiated. There was no lag time in the whole process.”
Dr. Meiklejohn McKenzie, a board-certified pathologist in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, said: Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital’s laboratory is “one of the few community hospitals in the region with digital imaging capabilities. Such technology is unique for a facility of this size. Our lab’s digital imaging will allow our medical technologists to rapidly transmit images of abnormal blood cells to our pathologists for further interpretation. This will significantly decrease turnaround time for these laboratory tests and result in more accurate results as well as more rapid treatment for patients with hematologic disorders.”