Pathology and Laboratory Medicine is currently at the centre of a revolution in clinical decision-making. Seventy percent of the information in hospital patient care computer systems is from the laboratory. Seventy percent of the important decisions affecting patient outcomes are based on pathologist diagnoses and laboratory information. The revolution from paper-based to computerized health records is complete for pathology and laboratory information. The next phase of the revolution is to apply information technology to create decision-support systems that anticipate clinical situations and assist clinicians in providing up-to-date, evidence-based care.
In order to increase the utility and application of information technologies within medicine, education in medical informatics is needed at all levels of health care. Pathologists are uniquely situated to become the medical information specialists, leaders and educators who advance healthcare through information technology. Pathologists currently design the laboratory systems that deliver health care information and, in the next phase of the information revolution, Pathologists can design the decision support systems that will be central to the next phase.
Pathology has numerous unique characteristics compared to clinical medicine and has specialized informatics needs. Molecular investigations have the potential to logarithmically increase the amount of information available in laboratory investigations. Microchip-based arrays can provide tens of thousands of data points from a single tissue or blood sample. Information may be obtained from multiple diverse sources, including both traditional clinical and anatomic pathology labs, and there is a need to amalgamate this information in a comprehensible manner.
Information technology has the potential to lead to a paradigm shift in the nature of medical practice. Because of its application to molecular techniques, and pathology’s unique position, the practice of pathology stands to be one of the areas most radically changed. Training of pathologists and other health professionals, as well as the creation of medical informatics specialists is needed to facilitate this change and support medicine into the era of increasing information generation, utilization and exploration.