Routine surgical telepathology in the Department of Veterans Affairs: Experience-related improvements in pathologist performance in 2200 cases

B. E. Dunn, H. Choi, U. A. Almagro, D. L. Recla, E. A. Krupinski, R. S. Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether diagnostic concordance, case deferral rate, and/or time required to review slides changed significantly as telepathologists gained additional experience using a hybrid dynamic/store- and-forward (HDSF) telepathology (TP) system on the 2000 cases following an initial 200 consecutive surgical cases, previously reported. Materials and Methods: Gross surgical pathology specimens were prepared by specially trained personnel in Iron Mountain, Michigan. For TP, glass slides were placed on the stage of a robotic microscope at the Iron Mountain VAMC (remote site); control of the motorized microscope was then transferred to a pathologist located 220 miles away at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, VAMC (host site). For each case, a telepathologist had the option of either rendering a diagnosis or deferring the case for later analysis by conventional light microscopy (LM). After the slides were read by TP and a surgical pathology report had been generated (for nondeferred cases), the slides were transported to Milwaukee, where they were reexamined by the same pathologist, now using LM. When there was disagreement between the TP and LM diagnosis, a supplemental or revised report was issued, and the referring physician was notified by telephone immediately. All supplemental and revised reports were reviewed by a third pathologist in the group. The slides were then reviewed by the pathology group practice or, when there was no consensus, by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to establish a 'truth' diagnosis. To determine changes in telepathologist performance with experience after the initial start-up of the service, their performance in handling 10 consecutive sets of 200 surgical pathology cases was analyzed. Results: Concordance rates for clinically significant TP and LM diagnoses were high for all 10 sets, ranging from 99% to 100%. Comparing the first set (Cases 201-400) with the last set (Cases 2001-2200), viewing times per case were reduced from 10.26 min to 3.58 min. Viewing times per slide were reduced from 3.44 min to 1.13 min per slide, comparing the first and last sets. Case turnaround times (TAT) decreased from 2.46 days to ≤1.5 days. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that improvements in TP services occur over time as the result of additional experience using the TP system. The high diagnostic concordance and low rate of case deferral lend additional support to the proposal that a host-site pathologist using HDSF TP can substitute effectively for an on-site pathologist as a service provider.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-337
Number of pages15
JournalTelemedicine Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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