Despite their emergence in 2017, U.S. laboratories are still struggling with the switch from glass slides to digital slides.
Digital pathology has been around for 20 years. So why the delayed response?
Read on to discover why digital slides are sweeping the medical field, and why the U.S. is playing catch up.
What is Digital Pathology?
Digital pathology is the process of data acquisition, management, sharing, and the interpretation of pathology information.
In digital pathology, scanning devices capture the information contained in glass slides. They then store this information in a digital database. This digital database makes data more accessible and less susceptible to losses or damage.
Digital pathology also provides a high-resolution digital image viewable from multiple angles on a computer or mobile phone. Because they are compatible with mobile phones, digital slides are more portable than traditional glass slides.
Why Use Digital Slides Instead of Glass Slides
Digitization shows no signs of slowing down in diagnostics. On the contrary, all indications are that digital pathology is about to boom in the diagnostic industry. Why?
The most straightforward reason is the easy access digital slides provide. But what does “easy access” mean in terms of diagnostics?
Doctors may find it difficult to relate glass slide information to patients or other doctors. But with digital slides, doctors have digital tools to better explain data.
Digital slides eliminate most of the need for physical storage. It’s safe to have tangible backup data, but digital slides store the information, so pathologists don’t have to worry about losing slides.
Storing slides using software also improves pathologists’ communication. Instead of needing pathologists in the same place to study data, one can send the information to another over long distances in a short time.
Interoperability is a fancy word for computers exchanging info. On a large scale, exchanging data via digital slides is monumental. Think of the benefits digital slides could provide for diseases such as COVID-19.
Pathologists could instantly share research all over the world, improving impoverished countries’ health care systems. Think of what pathologists could accomplish if they had unlimited access to each other’s data.
The Benefits Are Clear, Why Wait?
The benefits of digital slides are clear, so why the delay? In the past, slide scanning speeds were slow, and digital slide imaging wasn’t adequate. But these one-time weaknesses are rapidly turning into strengths. With increased processing speeds and image quality, digital slides are the wave of the future.
Even though digital pathology has been around for twenty years, it seems like it’s finally sealing its user experience holes. In the beginning, there was doubt whether these technologies could replicate empirical data.
But considering the technology came out before cell phones, the times have changed. And digital slides aren’t novelty acts anymore.
Industries everywhere are increasing their digital footprint. Why should pathology be any different?
The benefits of digital screens far outweigh the cons. Plus, traditional forms of pathology continue to progress more slowly than digital slides.
The increased use of electronic medical records and lab information systems and rely on IT. Now, the question is whether the interoperability digital slides provide matches their quality.
Are they better than glass slides? Again, the answer is yes.
The Difference From System to System
There are a few key aspects to look for in digital pathology systems. High-quality systems require excellent scanners and high-resolution imaging. Digital pathology systems must also provide customization and dependability.
Big lab systems should want a system that communicates with other systems. With more customization, however, comes more potential IT hiccups.
Adoption Takes Time
It will take time for digital slides to replace glass slides. Labs will have to switch a lot of equipment and become accustomed to new procedures. Labs have a lot to consider when switching systems because it is a long process that requires both financial and manual investment.
However, the relatively recent clearance of digital slides should speed up. There is no doubt that these systems will have a positive effect on digital pathology in the long run.
The U.S. is Late to the Party
For many years, pathologists outside the U.S. had full confidence in digital slides. Europe and Canada were among the first to adopt the systems. The reports from those countries are all favorable.
For example, pathologists in Ontario have widely used digital screens since 2008.
Future Trends in Digital Pathology
We should see the ubiquitous use of bio-pharmaceuticals and clinical research organizations (CROs) in the future. Institutions of education were some of the first organizations to utilize digital pathology.
Traditionally, institutions use light microscopes and glass slides. But microscopes and glass slides have many challenges. Access to slides varies depending on the institution, and they are more expensive to maintain.
Become A Part of the Future
Digital slides are the future of digital pathology and continue to replace glass screens. There’s no reason to delay the inevitable. Contact us today to learn more about telehealth, including digital pathology.