Path Links, the pioneering integrated pathology programme in Greater Lincolnshire, has placed the largest ever UK contract for Pathology Laboratory Information Management Systems with iSOFT for its APEX system.

Money for the multi-million pound contract has come from the government’s pathology modernisation fund. APEX will be rolled out as one complete integrated system serving five main hospital sites at Boston, Grimsby, Grantham, Scunthorpe and Lincoln and covering a population of around a million.

Cellular pathology will go live in September 2002, blood sciences by early 2003 and microbiology by August 2003.

A single patient master index will enable any of the Path Link sites to book samples in and they will then be directed to whichever laboratory is best placed to conduct the required tests. Reports will be available at any point within the service and clinical users will be able to track samples during the analytical process.

This functionality is particularly important for cellular pathology. It means that specimens can be directed to the consultant in the area who has the greatest experience of particular cases and the diagnoses will be more timely as the sample will go directly from the source hospital to the most appropriate testing site.

Before Path Links started in 1998, the cellular pathology laboratories, staffed by two or three consultants, acted independently of one another. This limited the degree of sub-specialisation that could be achieved and left departments vulnerable if senior staff left.

Path Links project manager, John O’Hara, said, “Having a single IT system was always seen as imperative for the success of the Path Links project.”

iSOFT’s track record of 13 multi-site implementations around the UK was cited as key factor in the company’s selection as supplier for Path Links. The APEX system will operate on High Availability IBM hardware, located in Scunthorpe, with wide area network connectivity at all sites.