Technology has been finding its way into medicine and even dental practices for years. Besides, the telepathology market has been seeing steady growth and is expected to reach USD 1,139 million by 2025.
What is Telepathology?
If you haven’t heard of telepathology before, it’s generally understood to be practicing pathology remotely. The American Telemedicine Association defines Telepathology as a part of digital pathology that provides electronic communication between pathologists for research, diagnostic consultation as a second opinion, and primary diagnoses.
Due to this technology, your doctor can consult experts in their fields no matter where they find them. Since, as we already know, diseases travel from one country to another, that’s excellent news!
Types of Telepathology Systems
With the growing adaptation to digital pathology as a healthcare concept, more medical organizations have an interest in implementing telepathology. You may be familiar with some microscope-based devices defined as digital, but we are here to look at a few different systems that fall into this category.
Most experts say that while image-based systems are less costly, the downside is that only a selected subset in the microscopic fields can be captured for evaluation off-site. It makes them less effective because they can’t obtain the same amount of information.
Still, despite these shortcomings, they are usually just as effective as traditional pathology.
Virtual Slide Systems
Whole Slide Imaging (WSI) renders high-resolution digital images and nearly rapid digitalization of glass slides of different samples. It makes them more useful, easy to share, and interactive. With this telepathology scanner, it is a straightforward process to create a digital image of a whole slide, and it’s unnecessary to move the slide to take multiple images.
Organizations that require the highest quality diagnostic imaging to achieve absolute accuracy in their results would use this system.
Real-time telepathology systems are often called real-time robotic microscopy systems. This name comes from the method of using a robotically controlled microscope along with the imaging operator.
These systems have many excellent capabilities. The pathologist can:
- Change the focus
- Increase or decrease illumination
- Change the magnification
- Move the field of view
The mounted camera on top of the microscope allows the remote pathologist to get a real-time encrypted video streamed directly on their monitor. These systems also feature microphones that help the pathologist and operator communicate.
7 Tips for Using a Telepathology Scanner
Using telepathology systems takes some practice and time when newly introducing the equipment. After all, you want to master all of the telepathology scanner’s features to get the best results for your hospital. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Preparing the Tissue
One of the critical steps in the process of digitizing slides falls on the tissue prep. If you start with an inferior sample, it won’t matter what kind of scanner you’re using. A few areas that can affect your outcome:
- Digital pathology scanners have a range of focus that is much smaller than a regular microscope
- Using a standard tissue thickness (3 – 5 μm) will give the best results when scanning single-plane images
- Avoid staining or getting wrinkles or folds in the tissue
- Glass coverslips are preferable to plastic ones for scanning
- Avoid getting air bubbles under the coverslip, to prevent distortions in areas that need to be scanned
Always, examine your slides before sending them on to be scanned.
2. Inspection and Preparation of Slides
Another critical step in the process is to clean and check your slides before starting to scan them. This check will improve your overall results. Establishing protocols for slide prep like these can help.
- Check that slides aren’t sticky, but are dry
- There should be no fingerprints and are clean, have no oil or other residues on them
- Check that labels do not overlap the slide and aren’t sticky
- There should be no bits of mounting media on the slides
- Check that the slides have no marker annotations like arrows or circling tissues
Extra care should be taken by the lab staff to avoid poor outcomes.
3. Slide Scanning Suggested Guidelines
In a best-case scenario, the scanner should pick up all the tissue on the slide and exclude objects that aren’t relevant like pen marks, labels, or other debris. Still, sometimes a poor scan results if there is faint tissue staining, extreme background staining, and other distortions that can affect the scan.
Check that focusing is automatic and look for any debris that can affect the focus points. If oil scanning, be sure that enough oil is present and won’t dry out during the scan. Too much oil can also affect the scan and cause distortions in the image of the slide.
4. Handling Big Slides
Before attempting to scan a larger slide, be sure your scanner can handle it. Most slides are 1″x3,” but occasionally, you will get an off sized one. Know your scanner’s capabilities before attempting it.
5. Scanning Damaged Slides
Damage can occur during slide preparation where they can get chipped or broken. Still, the slides can be scanned, although extra care must be taken, and they must be done separately.
6. Scanners Can Consume Slides
Some scanners have a design flaw in which the slide handling apparatus causes the slide to be broken during the scanning process and then consumed by the scanner. It is an issue that will require maintenance on the scanner, so it is best to make sure your scanner can handle imperfect slides so this doesn’t happen.
7. Problematic Barcodes
On a “1×3” slide, a scanner will assume a single barcode will be at the top of the slide. When that isn’t the case, you will have to handle scanning the slide manually.
Telepathology Scanners for Your Medical Facility
For more information about telepathology scanners and telepathology solutions, contact us today. We can help.