Objectives: The paper reviews the development of the application of telepathology in a department of surgical pathology between 1991 and 2003. The goal of the efforts during this time was to give up the concept of programming a single application, available only between two fixed workstations with sophisticated devices and special software, and to find the virtual "largest common denominator" for implementing as many different applications as possible with the same basic system.
Methods: A new telepathology system was designed as a client-server system with a relational database at its centre. The clients interact together by transferring the questions (texts and images) to a record (case) in the database on the server and by transferring the answers to the same record on the database.
Results: The new "open" telepathology system iPath (http://telepath.patho.unibas.ch) has been very well accepted by many groups around the world. The main application fields are: consultations between pathologists and medical institutions without a pathologist (e.g. for frozen section diagnoses or for surgical diagnoses in hospitals in South Asia or Africa), tumour boards, field studies and distance education (http://teleteach.patho.unibas.ch).
Conclusions: Having observed that with iPath we have succeeded in satisfying all our telepathology needs, we are inclined to put the emphasis on the nature of the tasks being performed, as opposed to the methods or technical means for performing a given task. The three organisation models proposed by Weinstein et al. (2001) can be reduced to only two models: the model of discussion groups and the model of expert groups (virtual institutes).