A pathologist at Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust has created open source, web-based pathology reporting software.

Dr Fred Mayall, a consultant histopathologist at the trust, got involved in the Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project after being frustrated that the existing IT in the NHS was not up to scratch.

Cancer laboratory reporting software often lacks the technology medical staff need to accurately report complex cases, said Dr Mayall.

Taunton and Somerset was a pilot site for an NHS Improvement project to improve the delivery of pathology services, but the team found that the systems were not doing what they wanted.

“There was a project to introduce new methodology and one of the problems we had was that the improvement we planned wasn’t possible because of the IT we were using,” said Dr Mayall.

“So we came up with the idea that we just created our own IT system. If we want the world’s best cancer pathology system, we know what needs to be in it, so we came up with what we needed and built it ourselves.”

The database software, created using FileMaker, can be used on any computer or mobile device with internet access and has customisable, automated proformas and templates to capture full data-sets.

Other workflow enhancements include the sequencing of unreported cases in chronological order to ensure a first-in first-out process for analysis.

“It’s the medical content that’s important, not the data bit. The clever bit isn’t the IT, it’s the ability to know what we want and how to get a high quality report from using the technology you have, that’s just the vehicle in which it’s delivered,” said Dr Mayall.

The open source software has become popular at the trust.

“Some of it has been used not just in medical departments, but the human resources department are using it for staff and medical education requirements,” said Dr Mayall.

He added that several other trusts had shown interest, and the software has been downloaded more than 350 times in the past year.

“We’ve had a trial where another lab is connected with us so we can share with them. We can share the database across the network and it’s in the web browser so you don’t need any software installed.”

Dr Mayall added that he is in talks with FileMaker to introduce training on the software to “enthusiastic doctors.”

“It’s worked well in pathology, but it can also be used throughout the NHS and wherever there’s an unmet IT requirement,” he said.