Those of us who live and breathe oncology understand the critical role that pathology plays in the ability to diagnose and create an effective treatment plan for patients. An important part of the preparation process for a patient’s second opinion consult is having access to the pathology materials so additional testing can be on done on existing specimens. Most cancer centers will not even see a patient – or, in some cases, won’t even schedule an appointment – until they obtain the pathology.
There are some obvious factors that slow this process down – not knowing where to obtain the sample, samples being lost, etc. But for many cancer centers and pathology departments, there are some less-obvious issues that can have just as big of an impact.
Often, it comes down to the “language of pathology.”
In our work with cancer centers across the country, we are often tasked with retrieving critical pathology samples for the patient’s new provider. Since our goal is to continually focus on how we can provide patient information as quickly as possible to clinical teams, we have uncovered an important barrier when it comes to securing pathology for new patients.
As Oncology departments prepare to see a new patient, they do their due diligence of requesting key things from the patient’s past medical history such as labs, images, and reports. For oncology patients, pathology will almost always be on this list.
However, we have discovered that the way a request is worded is a critical factor in procuring the appropriate materials for review. If the request is vaguely worded, the pathologist working on the patient’s case might not receive the necessary materials to confirm a diagnosis and create a proper treatment plan.
Ensuring that requesters are using the most specific language possible for their request will:
- Eliminate extra back-and-forth between the requester and the pathology department
- Reduce frustration for both the requester and the pathology department staff
- Avoid delays in the pathology department’s ability to fulfill the department’s request
So what immediate steps can cancer centers take?
- Be aware of how and what you are requesting from the Pathology Department. Using precise language drives efficiency and ensures that the pathology department sends exactly what is needed. It is critical for cancer center staff and the pathology department to maintain open communication in order to understand the nuances of specimens and how they are prepared.
- Standardize the request process so there is no room for error on the language in the request. Cancer departments can achieve this by working with eHealth Technologies to retrieve pathology. The request template development and set-up process in our online portal ensures that an accurate request is made each and every time. Templates vary from one specialty area to another – taking the guesswork out of what is needed for different types of patients. This eases the burden on cancer center staff who are already pulled in multiple directions.
Here is an example of a typical pathology materials request versus eHealth’s specifically worded template.
General Request Template prior to eHealth’s discussion with pathologist:
Revamped Request Template based on pathologist’s specific sample needs:
Together, we are all working toward the same goal: Fast, effective treatment for patients. By fine-tuning the way pathology is requested, we can expedite the process and ensure timely, accurate samples – making it one less barrier for clinicians striving to provide the best possible care.