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J Pathol Inform. 2012;3:35. doi: 10.4103/2153-3539.101794. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Use of contextual inquiry to understand anatomic pathology workflow: Implications for digital pathology adoption.

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  • 1Departments of Dermatology and Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

For decades anatomic pathology (AP) workflow have been a highly manual process based on the use of an optical microscope and glass slides. Recent innovations in scanning and digitizing of entire glass slides are accelerating a move toward widespread adoption and implementation of a workflow based on digital slides and their supporting information management software. To support the design of digital pathology systems and ensure their adoption into pathology practice, the needs of the main users within the AP workflow, the pathologists, should be identified. Contextual inquiry is a qualitative, user-centered, social method designed to identify and understand users' needs and is utilized for collecting, interpreting, and aggregating in-detail aspects of work.

OBJECTIVE:

Contextual inquiry was utilized to document current AP workflow, identify processes that may benefit from the introduction of digital pathology systems, and establish design requirements for digital pathology systems that will meet pathologists' needs.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

Pathologists were observed and interviewed at a large academic medical center according to contextual inquiry guidelines established by Holtzblatt et al. 1998. Notes representing user-provided data were documented during observation sessions. An affinity diagram, a hierarchal organization of the notes based on common themes in the data, was created. Five graphical models were developed to help visualize the data including sequence, flow, artifact, physical, and cultural models.

RESULTS:

A total of six pathologists were observed by a team of two researchers. A total of 254 affinity notes were documented and organized using a system based on topical hierarchy, including 75 third-level, 24 second-level, and five main-level categories, including technology, communication, synthesis/preparation, organization, and workflow. Current AP workflow was labor intensive and lacked scalability. A large number of processes that may possibly improve following the introduction of digital pathology systems were identified. These work processes included case management, case examination and review, and final case reporting. Furthermore, a digital slide system should integrate with the anatomic pathologic laboratory information system.

CONCLUSIONS:

To our knowledge, this is the first study that utilized the contextual inquiry method to document AP workflow. Findings were used to establish key requirements for the design of digital pathology systems.

KEYWORDS:

Anatomic pathology; contextual inquiry; digital pathology; workflow

PMID:
23243553
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC3519008
Free PMC Article
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