Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project

"FileMaker removed many of the barriers for medical staff developing their own software. It allowed us to develop a sophisticated solution rapidly. At the start we were enhancing the software almost daily to give us exactly what we needed. We could focus on the high-level function without becoming bogged down in laborious basic programming." – Dr Fred Mayall, Diagnostic Pathologist, Free Diagnostic Software Project.

FileMaker helps reduce time to diagnose cancer

Diagnostic pathologists were able to create their own solution to improve the speed and accuracy of cancer reporting


  • Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project designs new software to improve cancer diagnosis reporting


  • Healthcare/Medical Services


  • FileMaker used to build new solution to speed up reporting and reduce human error for diagnostic pathologists  


  • Greater accuracy and reduced reporting time
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Cancer cells infiltrating skin.
Many cancer laboratories in the UK are using antiquated reporting software. Upgrading to a more modern system is expensive. Even the more modern systems often lack the technology needed for pathologists to efficiently report complex cases.

For some types of cancer more than 50 characteristics need to be reported on before assessing the best course of treatment.

Dr Fred Mayall, a diagnostic pathologist working on the project, said, "We realised that we could learn a lot from some manufacturing industries such as the motor industry and aerospace industry; specifically their use of Lean processes. Cancer diagnosis and manufacturing industry are similar in two important ways; they are complex processes and have a low tolerance for error."


When implementing Lean principles in the laboratory it became evident that the current IT systems could not support the changes required. A more visual and streamlined approach was required in the form of customisable reporting templates and proformas to capture the complete data sets for each case. When reviewing existing technology it was clear that there was nothing available to meet the specific needs of the laboratory.


To overcome these difficulties The Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project developed its own web based reporting software.

Building solutions with FileMaker is relatively simple compared with most other modern databases applications such as MySQL.

— Dr Fred Mayall, Diagnostic Pathologist, Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project
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Process sequence for IT.

The FileMaker solution:

Usability and flexibility were the key elements that the team needed from their solution. When using FileMaker it was possible to update the software without shutting it down and interrupting work. This allowed the medical staff to improve the software in many small steps; checking and adjusting each step as it was implemented.

The software was built in FileMaker Pro and is designed for use with Instant Web Publishing from FileMaker Server Advanced. As FileMaker Pro is a cross-platform relational database application it is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS environments, and also Apple mobile devices using FileMaker Go. While this software is designed specifically for diagnostic pathologists to report cancers, it could easily be adapted for use in other areas of medicine in which text based reporting is used.

The proformas and templates allow for easy data capture to automate some of the process, further reducing the time required by pathologists to input data following the analysis of a specimen. The proformas in the software also based on those advocated by the Royal College of Pathologists and the International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting.

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Reporting template.

Notable benefits:

"Building solutions with FileMaker is relatively simple compared with most other modern database applications such as MySQL. Many of us in the lab are fairly IT orientated. We did not need to be professional database developers create what we needed," said Dr Mayall.

The software can be used on any computer, or mobile device, with a web browser and access to the server, and there can hundreds of simultaneous users. Consequently the costs of installing and running the database are low. The automated proformas set up within the solution have also reduced the risk of human error. Other workflow enhancements within the software include the sequencing of unreported cases in chronological order to ensure first-in first-out process for analysis.

The software has been trialed by staff across multiple sites to report thousands of cases, including many complex tumour cases requiring key data element capture. This software, along with other process improvements, has supported an increase in the percentage of specimens reported by the laboaratory in seven days from 40% up to 85%.

The Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project has made its software open source in order to share it with other NHS Labs, and internationally. So far there have been hundreds downloads from its website across the globe. Being open source means that others can contribute to the software's development, enhancing the user experience and functionality in future versions.

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager


Free Diagnostic Pathology Software Project