Markus Herrmann, MD, PhD
Director of Computational Pathology
Massachusetts General Hospital
DICOM WG-26 Pathology Connectathon and Hackathon
Whole slide imaging (WSI) systems have historically been handling imaging data along the entire pixel pathway from image acquisition to storage and management to display and have been primarily relying on proprietary file formats and interfaces for internal communication of the data between software components. However, the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and the need to programmatically find, access, interoperate, and re-use imaging data for computational analysis make it necessary to integrate multiple specialized systems from different vendors and to exchange data across system boundaries. DICOM is the internationally accepted standard for medical imaging and is being adopted for slide microscopy imaging in digital and computational pathology around the world. While DICOM has the potential to achieve interoperability between devices from different vendors, established procedures and criteria for evaluating interoperability are currently lacking.Manufacturers, healthcare enterprises, government agencies, and professional societies and associations have been working collaboratively in DICOM Working Group 26 “Pathology” (WG-26) to develop standard formats and interfaces for communication of WSI data based on the DICOM standard. Starting at PathVisions 2017, WG-26 has further organized Connectathon events to test the exchange of data between image acquisition, management, and viewing devices from different vendors using DICOM, and at PathVisions 2021 organized a Hackathon event to test the integration of image annotations and analysis results generated by AI devices. At this year’s PathVisions conference, WG-26 will host the first joint Connectathon and Hackathon event to test image visualization and analysis capabilities on a common DICOM-based digital imaging infrastructure.In contrast to prior events, which primarily relied on conversion tools to generate DICOM data sets, this year’s event for the first time utilizes commercially available scanner devices that output data directly in DICOM format as well as public cloud services that allow for storage and management of DICOM data sets via a standard DICOMweb interface. Major digital pathology vendors, cloud vendors, and academic centers from around the world are participating in the Connectathon to test the interoperability devices for common digital pathology use cases in a controlled environment and to formulate testing procedures and criteria, focusing on communication of WSI data over the web and their interactive visualization via web browsers. In parallel, researchers and developers that participate in the Hackathon are given access to the same data and infrastructure in order to test the standard conformance and interoperability of their image analysis algorithms. The joint event is conducted virtually over the course of multiple weeks prior to the conference, and the results and lessons learned of the interoperability tests are presented at the conference. WG-26 thereby aims to increase awareness and adoption of the DICOM standard, recruit additional members to participate in standard development, and inform the community about the importance and best practices for interoperability testing.
Dr. Markus Herrmann serves as Director of Computational Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. He is an interdisciplinary physician-scientist at the intersection of medicine, biology, and computer science with a specialization in biomedical imaging and clinical data science. His research combines digital microscopy, machine learning, and statistical modeling to discover and develop quantitative imaging biomarkers and is focused on the development of computational algorithms and software tools for image management, analysis, and visualization as well as the evaluation and clinical integration of AI-based, computer-assisted devices. Dr. Herrmann is also actively engaged in advancing digital pathology through regulatory science and standardization and holds various leadership positions at national and international committees, including the Digital and Computational Pathology Committee of the College of American Pathologists, the DICOM Working Group 26 Pathology, and the Standards and Regulatory Task Force of the Digital Pathology Association.