Digital pathology has the potential to transform the field of pathology similar to how teleradiology revolutionized the medical imaging industry.
Currently, there is an expected shortage of pathologists in the U.S. Estimates by the Bureau of Health Professions predict that there will be a 30% decrease in the number of pathologists in the U.S. by 2030 when comparing 2010 numbers. Digital pathology solutions make the pathology diagnosis process significantly more efficient, which minimizes the potential negative impact of this trend on patients.
Read further to learn further about the advantages of this technology.
Digital Pathology Technology
Digital pathology improves the primary diagnosis process. It also makes it easier to give second opinions on challenging cases. Furthermore, sharing images with other pathologists improves the accuracy of diagnoses.
Traditionally, pathologists have looked at slides containing tissue under a microscope. Tissue is stained in order to highlight structures and improve viewing accuracy. Specific structures seen within a tissue sample facilitate a diagnosis. Diseases that are diagnosed include cancers and infections.
With digital pathology, slides are digitized which enables physicians to share and use computer algorithms for analysis. Algorithms automate the counting of structures or types of cells seen. They also aid in the grading of tumors. This technology reduces human error and improves the accuracy of a diagnosis.
Telepathology provides solutions that allow remote access by board-certified pathologists. It is one answer to the shortage of pathologists and allows the preservation of quality care.
Advances in technology will lead to the adaptation of new digital pathology solutions. Whole slide imaging (WSI) is the scanning of glass slides to make digital slide images. It is the current imaging technique used by pathology departments globally. WSI continues to get the support of pathologists for diagnostic purposes.
Advantages and Challenges
Benefits of digital pathology include:
- Primary diagnosis of disease
- Facilitates the tailoring of treatments for each patient
- Maximizes patient outcomes through analysis of data
- Gives pathologists access to prior or different patient samples
- Gives a complete view of the patient’s health and the care they’re receiving
- Removes barriers related to location
Some challenges include:
- The need of medical facilities to further embrace this technology
- Technology standards are still being defined
- Regulations can be overly complex
Digital pathology allows colleagues to work together when there are new discoveries. Pathologists can consult with peers to make an accurate diagnosis of unusual tissue findings and new airborne or blood diseases.
Pathologists around the world can provide input on the same tissue or blood sample. Digital pathology saves money, time, and lives in these situations.
Recognition of morphology and structure with increased sensitivity and specificity will improve as progress continues. Some pathology analyzers will include a protein or genetic profile to speed-up getting the images.
Summation of All Things Considered
Digital pathology is an up-and-coming technology that promises to transform the field.
Through telepathology technologies, scientific knowledge is expanding which is creating more cost effective solutions within the pathology field. The technology is enabling pathologists to more easily collaborate on cases which is improving patient care.
Improved integration with lab information systems (LIS) and the development of digital pathology standards will make telepathology even more powerful as the technology develops.
The field of digital pathology offers medical facilities and patients much hope in the future and is no doubt here to stay.
Check out our website for information about our services offered in telepathology.