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Disruptive Technologies: Part 1: Barcoding

By: David Krull


Within the last five years, I observed an explosion in the number of "disruptive technologies" within histology. The definition of disruptive technology as defined by the Business Dictionary is "New ways of doing things that disrupt or overturn the traditional business methods and practices". Some examples include increasing embrace of automation, nanoString© (DNA, RNA and protein profiling), spectral imaging and multiplex immunofluorescence (up to 7 markers), Imaging Mass Cytometry (Fluidigm® and ionPATH®) and RNAscope® ISH, to a name a few. The majority of these "DTs" are driven by the research community and the ones that have a positive impact and lasting value are often translated to the clinical environment.


I recently asked NSH members to reflect on their business environment, wherever that may be (clinical, research or other), and identify some current DTs or potential ones that have impacted their ways of working in the lab or the data\product that you deliver.


I will be sharing their responses in Fixation on Histology’s new multi-part segment, Disruptive Technologies. Today’s post focuses on bar code tracking systems, and was provided by Clifford Chapman, HTL(ASCP)QIHC.


Chapman: In my experience, the number one "disruptive technology" in the histology laboratory has been the introduction and implementation of bar code tracking systems. With regard to the end users (i.e. accessioners, grossing technicians, histologists, laboratory aides), the number of scanning steps and computer checks has added to the total turnarond time for a specimen to enter and leave the laboratory. However the end result is well worth it.


If a bar code tracking system is successfully implemented in a histology laboratory, along with proper personnel training and strict procedures, the final result of these efforts is: 100% accuracy with regard to patient/ specimen integrity. No longer can tissue specimens be accidently "switched" in cassettes during surgical grossing. No longer can a tissue section be picked up on the "wrong" slide. No longer can specimens "go missing" anywhere in the laboratory, as they are all time stamped and identified at each work station. One might argue that, with respect to the increased time associated with bar code tracking, this time may more than cancel out time that we used to spend looking for missing specimens and fixing slides with incorrect labels.


"In my opinion, bar code tracking has been the single most important development in the histology laboratory during my career. While the definition "disruptive technology" has a negative connotation, in this instance the outcome is very positive."

Do you have an example of a disruptive technology you've noticed in your laboratory? Post it in the comments below, and email it to David Krull, david.l.krull@gsk.com.

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The National Society for Histotechnology is a professional member organization for individuals actively involved in the histology profession. NSH has over 3,000 members worldwide, and is the leading provider of histology focused continuing education.  

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