Automation and emerging information technologies are being adopted by cytology laboratories around the world to augment Pap test screening and improve diagnostic accuracy. Informatics, the application of computers and information systems to information management, is therefore essential for the successful operation of the cytopathology laboratory. This chapter describes how laboratory information management systems can be used to achieve an automated and seamless workflow process. The utilization of software, electronic databases and spreadsheets to perform necessary quality control measures will be discussed. The emerging role of computer assisted screening and application of digital imaging to the field of cervical cytology will be described, including telecytology and virtual microscopy. Finally, this chapter will reflect on the impact of online cytology resources and the emerging role of digital image cytometry.
Laboratory Information Systems
The laboratory information system (LIS) is the core of many cytology laboratory operations. Its functions include workflow management, specimen tracking, data entry and reporting, assistance with regulatory compliance, code capture, interfacing with other systems, archiving, inventory control, and providing billing information (Pantanowitz et al., 2007; Eleveitch & Spackman, 2001; Cowan, 2005). Components of the LIS include hardware (e.g. servers), peripherals (e.g. instruments, printers), a network, interfaces (hardware and software links) to automated instruments and other information systems (e.g. electronic medical record and financial systems), database(s), and software such as an operating system, database management system, and specific applications required for laboratory operations. The LIS is often leveraged to improve efficiency, enhance productivity, reduce staff needs, facilitate automation (e.g. interface with automatic sample preparation, staining and slide cover slipping machines), and eliminate potential sources of error. The LIS also functions as a database that determines the configuration of system parameters and stores patient-related data (Figure 1).