Pathology software for optimal lab performance

Written by:

Fanny Dobrenova and Elisa Opriessnig

Pathology software technology advances at a rapid pace. Advanced pathology software solutions currently transform healthcare practice. To provide you with a brief overview of the latest digital pathology tools on the market, we have reviewed the most popular types of software solutions. Find out about the numerous benefits of integrating these digital tools into your workflow to ensure efficiency in your lab.

The digital pathology software market

The pathology software segment spans different categories of digital solutions  for the management, analysis and reporting of pathology documentation and laboratory results. The rise of chronic diseases worldwide and an ever-increasing governmental emphasis on research activities for new drug discovery and disease treatment drive business growth in this sector. The pathology software industry is booming at present with an expected market growth of 12% by 2027. 

Based on their integrated features and field of application pathology software products can be grouped into several major segments: 

Pathology lab management software

Pathology training software

​Pathology slide acquisition and viewing software 

End-users of digital pathology solutions typically include: 

End Users of Digital Pathology Software prepared by KML Vision

The end users of digital pathology software.

These organizations are typically in need of state-of-the-art software solutions to improve their workflows for optimal lab performance in terms of high-quality research and diagnostic outcomes.

the choice of digital pathology software / KML Vision

Factors to consider when choosing the right digital pathology software package.

5 criteria for evaluating pathology software prepared by KML Vision

Pathology lab management software

Pathology lab management software is widely used in laboratory and hospital settings to manage the flow of patient and specimen information.

What are laboratory information systems (LIS)?

A laboratory information system also referred to as LIS answers the increasing demands of modern laboratories with regard to data integration, specimen handling and tracking and workflow optimization.

Modern laboratory information systems integrate the capabilities of hardware and software technology to deal with the complexity of data generated in clinical and research labs on a daily basis. Nowadays, labs require a state-of-the-art LIS to manage the complex and advanced nature of lab testing. An effective LIS ensures more efficient workflows and standardization when dealing with large amounts of multidimensional clinical documentation.

Additionally, laboratory information systems improve the flow of information between laboratories, healthcare providers and patients. To deal with these large amounts of information, specialized pathology lab management software has become an indispensable part of modern LIS.  

LIS Workflow prepared by KML Vision

LIS for improved lab performance.

LIMS for a smoother lab workflow

LIMS or laboratory information management software, sometimes referred to as pathology billing software, is the digital backbone of modern pathology labs. The entire process is built upon an intuitive billing system. An effective lab billing system offers various possibilities to generate invoices, manage inventories and track bill payments.

These tools help pathologists to store and manage project documentation, patient records and information  on revenue transactions. In addition to issuing customizable user-defined reports, LIMS provides advanced features for specimen tracking and laboratory data across workflows.

Revenue cycle management (RCM) tools integrate financial, technical and clinical operations in a single software solution.  One of the most popular providers of a LIMS platform with RCM-integration is LigoLab. RCM platforms ensure effective claims and payment submissions. Integrated billing functions enable the end-users to automatically issue reports and communicate lab results with different stakeholders like patients, collaboration partners and authorities.

Automated clinical reports ensure higher accuracy and consistency in the generated lab data and raise the satisfaction and involvement of patients. Customized reports can be delivered to patients in a few clicks. Those reports can be sent to patients and physicians via different channels like email, SMS or WhatsApp.   

Some LIMS offer integrated business analysis modules. These provide a reliable overview of the total number of cases, billing and revenue trend statistics. This feature offers invaluable help that supports business decision making in labs and healthcare institutions.

Thanks to modern LIMS applications, it has become significantly easy to automate entire work processes, while maintaining a high level of flexibility in data management workflows. While some LIMS are cloud-based, others may be deployed on premise or on a private cloud to ensure an even greater degree of data protection. In order to get the optimal lab management solution some labs request bespoke software tools  specifically targeted to their unique needs.  

LIMS Workflow / KML Vision

Optimize lab processes with specialized laboratory information management software (LIMS).

Anatomic pathology lab software vs. clinical pathology lab software

The various pathology lab management software products existing on the market  can be grouped into two major categories: anatomic pathology software and clinical pathology software.

Anatomic pathology software supports data obtained through tissue specimen collection using methods such as macroscopic and microscopic sampling, cytology, histology, surgical pathology, molecular pathology and forensic pathology. Large corporate providers of anatomic pathology LIMS have emerged in recent years, but the most notable examples are TECHNIDATA, WindoPath Ē.ssential® and Sunquest CoPathPlus™.  

LIMS for clinical pathology purposes is designed to store data from patient samples collected through methods like hematology, biochemistry, serology, toxicology and genomics analysis. Software products like Xybion, Autoscribe and LabSmart support advanced clinical pathology modules.

Pathology image analysis software workflow / KML Vision

The digital pathology image analysis procedure is effortless as compared to traditional manual methods.

Comparison  of manual approach vs. digital pathology

Automated reporting and EHR integration

Current pathology lab applications offer an efficient system for patient management. Lab staff can conveniently access patient data online.

State-of-the-art lab software products support real-time integration with a patient’s electronic health record (EHR). Such applications streamline lab data in real-time which is automatically integrated into a patient’s EHR.    

The use of a standardized lab information system enables automated reporting and information exchange between laboratories and public health agencies such as central cancer registries. For example, the pilot project Epath, launched in the USA, involves the use of AI-driven software to boost efficiency in communicating with governmental health authorities.

AI technology integrated in pathology lab software can speed up sample analysis and tumor detection by automatically generating  lab reports while also maintaining an extremely high accuracy rate. Advanced electronic reporting allows the automated retrieval of cancer incidence data into population-based registries.

What you should consider when picking the right pathology lab management tool

  • ​Easy LIS integration
  • ​Automated electronic reporting
  • Customizable reports
  • ​Billing functions
  • ​Clinical pathology module
  • ​Patient identification
  • ​User collaboration
  • ​Report scheduling functions
  • ​Anatomic pathology module
  • Specimen management and tracking
  • Business analytics module
  • EHR integration

Pathology training software

The pathology training software segment comprises innovative digital solutions used for educational purposes. This product category spans virtual e-learning environments (VLEs) and interactive simulators, that make high-quality virtual vocational training possible also during quarantine restrictions. This is the case of applications targeted specifically at higher education institutions and HR departments of labs and hospitals.

Comprehensive pathology e-learning applications provide a web-based platform and hosting environment for digital pathology training. These online portals are utilized to train medical students, but also find use in lifelong learning for healthcare professionals. 

E-learning platforms enable trainers to manage, track and deliver educational content and resources in the form of web-based teaching modules as well as to conduct an online assessment of participants.

Tips and tricks: Start learning with the IKOSA Knowledge Base. The IKOSA Knowledge Base  offers an extensive collection of instructional materials, short videos and step-by-step guidelines that will help you get started with your pathology image analysis project.

Learners can make use of the e-learning platform by browsing through galleries of pre-annotated digital slides, viewing instructional videos and performing self-assessment tests. With the help of interactive learning environments users are able to mark annotations on digital slides or to identify correctly placed annotations. 

pathology software learning materials

The IKOSA Knowledge Base is the right place to start, if you want to learn essentials of pathology image analysis.

Virtual pathology e-learning environments

Some educational institutions have developed individual pathology training platforms based on their unique teaching objectives and curricula. A number of commercial providers also offer innovative pathology VLEs for educational purposes.

Pathology simulation tools

Pathology simulation tools are often integrated into virtual learning environments. Interactive simulators may be designed in the form of virtual videos that mimic real-time microscopy sessions. Cirdan’s PathXL Tutor application allows the end user to examine a digital slide in a manner similar to using a microscope.  

Virtual patient simulator applications have gained in popularity in recent years as the proliferation of new tools ultimately leads to a transformation in the way pathologists  learn and work. Virtual patient simulator software is intended to teach medical students the process of pathology evaluation and diagnosis based on an array of virtual materials.  A few virtual patient simulator tools are worth mentioning: 

Pathology slide acquisition and viewing software

Pathology slide-viewing software or whole-slide imaging (WSI) software is widely used for the creation of digital slides through the automated scanning of conventional glass slides. Tissue slide digitization involves the use of special hardware equipment such as microscopes and other scanning devices.

These devices are capable of  producing large amounts of high-resolution digital slides in a brief period of time. Scanning devices seamlessly establish a connection to the whole-slide imaging software used in order to display and view the slides.   

The use of specialized slide viewing software brings along numerous benefits such as ease of storage, sharing and retrieval from databases as well as the option of subjecting them to automated image analysis. Whole-slide technology is widely used for diagnostic and research purposes, teleconsultation with experts as well as for training medical students and professionals.

Large numbers of virtual pathology slides can currently be fully integrated into the complex infrastructure of a laboratory information system thanks to the great data storage capacities of the latter.  

Tips and tricks: Store large volumes of pathology slide data on the IKOSA Platform. A free IKOSA account has up to 1 GB of storage space included. A paid account provides you with an even larger storage space based on your needs.

Besides viewing features, modern whole-slide imaging applications support advanced capabilities for image manipulation and processing such as object annotation, color correction, filtering and edge detection

While implementing WSI software into laboratory practice will significantly improve workflow efficiency and productivity, it requires the dedication of additional IT resources and their integration into daily workflows.     

Here are a few open-source and free-for-use applications best suited as pathology slide viewers:

How to pick the right whole-slide imaging software

We have summed up the aspects you should take into consideration when choosing the optimal pathology viewing software for your lab.

  • LIS and workflow integration
  • ​Automated scanning functions
  • ​Magnification options
  • ​Multimodality image support 
  • ​Scanning device integration
  • ​Image storage options
  • ​Multiframe image support
  • ​Image manipulation functions

Pathology image analysis software

Whole-slide image analysis has become an integral part of modern life science research practice. Advanced image analysis solutions allow pathologists to quickly and efficiently process digital whole-slide images as well as to generate reliable quantitative results.

The benefits of AI-driven bioimage analysis

The latest bioimage analysis applications apply advanced artificial intelligence technology to significantly improve research processes and reduce resource turnover

AI-backed solutions find numerous applications in cellular image analysis, tissue analysis and tissue biomarker research. Deep learning tools for microscopy image analysis can be trained to autonomously analyze image data on the basis of a variety of input images. 

These software products learn to run advanced mathematical models on novel image data to generate predictions. AI-backed applications mimic the image analysis workflow expert pathologists perform.

State-of-the-art microscopy image analysis tools integrate powerful artificial intelligence algorithms which automatically detect and segment objects and regions of interest on whole-slide images such as tumor and non-tumor areas or subcellular structures such as the cellular membrane, cytoplasm and the nucleus.   

Some pathology image analysis applications can be installed on premise, but the latest solutions on the market apply cloud technology to ensure maximum productivity and faster collaboration within research teams.

A number of digital pathology platforms support smart data management and collaborative image analysis functions. The option to store large amounts of microscopy image data in digital libraries is also supported by most cloud platforms.    

Innovative AI-driven solutions significantly contribute to the transformation of whole-slide image analysis practice by speeding up the research workflow while yielding reliable and reproducible results

Open-source bioimage analysis solutions

Over the recent years, a number of open-source software tools that allow researchers to automate their whole-slide analysis workflows have emerged. Most of these applications are desktop tools available for download that can be extended by installing additional plugins depending on the user’s needs. Several of these open-source solutions deserve to be mentioned:       

An automated image analysis solution helps researchers to address complex whole-slide analysis problems in a fast and efficient manner. Most of these tools provide built-in cell segmentation and biomarker evaluation algorithms as well as scripting features allowing users to develop and share their automated image analysis models with the scientific community.

Yet, some of these open-source applications show a few limitations in their functionalities like limited image modification options, the lack of support for annotations and multimodality images and missing compatibility with other slide scanning devices. 

Open-source applications for whole-slide image analysis are primarily intended to let users actively participate in the software development process by drafting their own plugins, scripts and workflows. Yet, this requires advanced coding skills and the dedication of additional IT resources

Commercial bioimage analysis solutions

Using commercial pathology image analysis software, on the other hand, brings additional benefits. Commercial cell image analysis products existing on the market support a broader range of imaging modalities.

These are generally more user-friendly as they offer a range of practice-proven image analysis modules developed through the collaboration of computer vision specialists and pathology experts.

Comprehensive pathology image analysis solutions comprise broad-ranging functionalities such as image data viewing, augmentation, annotation, management and sharing resulting in a faster and reproducible automated bioimage analysis. 

The IKOSA Platform is a complete microscopy image analysis solution spanning AI-powered analysis and algorithm training features, a collection of ready-made pathology image analysis applications combined with smart bioimage data management and user collaboration.

IKOSA Platform pathology image data management and analysis

IKOSA Prisma features an extensive collection of ready-made microscopy image analysis applications including a wide array of pathology assays.

IKOSA AI is a unique software product allowing researchers to train algorithms for the automated analysis of pathology slides on a user-friendly graphic interface and without having to script any code.

IKOSA AI automated pathology image analysis software

Develop your own pathology image analysis algorithms with IKOSA AI.

Pick the right pathology software solution now

Now that you’ve learnt about the wide variety of pathology software solutions on the market, you are ready to pick the right one for your research project. Keep in mind that excellence in pathology research requires unique solutions to provide deep insights into your data.