Protecting patient data (and medical data overall) is one of the hallmarks of excellent pathology practice. But common telepathology pathology scanners often come with one negative side effect: it’s easy to lose patient data.
Thus, pathologists have to be extremely careful when trying to preserve patient data. Yet, this doesn’t always work.
You’d be surprised how many deaths result from medical errors in the U.S. each year. Because of this, researchers are always looking for ways to improve patient safety and data protection.
One of the newest ways is using whole slide imaging in telepathology. Whole slide imaging allows for better preservation of patient data and reduces the risk that it will either deteriorate or get lost.
Keep reading to learn more about what whole slide imaging is and its benefits.
What Is Whole Slide Imaging?
Whole slide imaging (WSI) is a rather new method of data preservation that is gaining traction in the field of telepathology. The basis of WSI is that it works to preserve precious pathology data by converting it into digital files.
With how many deaths are related to medical errors in the U.S. every single year, this type of data preservation is extremely important. In the past, experts in the digital pathology field worked hard and long hours to try and save pathology data found on microscopes.
That’s where WSI comes in. Now, pathologists can scan glass slides that would act as a catalyst for producing high-res digital slides. Because of how efficient this method of data preservation is, WSI has become somewhat of a worldwide celebrity in the field of telepathology.
Alongside it being efficient, WSI also allows access to services in underprivileged areas, improves workflow, and encourages collaboration in departments related to pathology.
How It Works
When a technician or pathologist uses a whole slide imaging machine, they are basically converting a microscopy slide into a high-resolution digital image. This process is quite complex because it uses a few different products and appliances (both software and hardware).
On a side note, the complex processes involved with using and making WSI routines are still quite challenging. This is the primary reason that WSI is still not widely available throughout the world. But just like any other advancement in the medical and scientific fields, research is ongoing.
There may be a chance very shortly that WSI is still more widespread. As for now, it remains as one of the newer telepathology solutions that are showing great promise in institutions that have access to it.
Nonetheless, let us continue by exploring how WSI is used.
First, a pathologist gathers the necessary material for screening patient data. This includes all the glass slides, tools, and materials. Once everything is gathered, the pathologist prepares the slide for microscopic viewing as usual.
Next, the conversion process begins. The pathologist loads up a microscope-type hardware device called a whole slide imaging scanner. The scanner records an image of the slide and then converts it into a digital file.
Once the conversion process ends, the pathologist can view the data using virtual slide imaging software. They’re able to view the specifics of the collected specimen and make conclusions based on them.
The great thing about using this virtual software is that it can allow pathologists to view specimens exactly how they would be if they were looking at a hard copy. Yet, these virtual views are even better since they can be zoomed in and out, and the images can be manipulated to allow for better reading.
Some virtual software even allows pathologists to look at specimens on the absolute molecular level.
Benefits of Using Whole Slide Imaging
One of the biggest benefits of using whole slide imaging that we have yet to discuss is the longevity of whole slide images. When specimens are collected by pathologists to be used for data, they risk deteriorating over time.
With whole slide imaging, this concern mostly fades away. Why’s that?
Well, images don’t exactly die off the same way specimens do. Think of the difference between preserving an example of a dish on a food display rather than taking a picture of the food and displaying it there. Which one is going to last longer?
Another great benefit of using WSi is that it produces quick and reliable results. The pictures obtained from using a whole slide imaging scanner come rather quick, so there’s not much having to wait for results. This also helps deliver results to patients quicker.
We’ll discuss the next benefit that we’ve already mentioned, but think is highly important. Medical data (especially those relating to individual patients) is both highly sensitive and simultaneously easy to lose.
When something such as medical data has both of these cautions attached to them, it’s natural that patient data is commonly lost. When data is lost, misplaced, or reported incorrectly, the patient’s health and life are at risk.
In fact, medical errors account for over 200,000 deaths each year in the United States. That’s quite a large number for something as preventable as medical errors. To put things into perspective, the flu is responsible for less than 75,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.
To prevent this, medical professionals need to use reliable equipment and practices to ensure that patient’s data is secured and not lost. WSI is great at this since it produces exact results and can preserve data gathered for long periods of time.
Other benefits of using WSI include:
- Automated analyses
- Easy to share and distribute data
- Data can get gathered repeatedly
- Cost-efficient for what it’s worth
Since research is still ongoing, more benefits are sure to arise shortly.
Learning More About WSI
Whole slide imaging is arguably one of the more beneficial advancements in modern pathology as of late. Its benefits are wide and are expanding with each research study conducted.
With all that said, it’s still a new advancement and not as widespread as other processes or products such as portable scanners. Regardless, it still shows great promise and is sure to change the pathology game forever.
To learn more about telepathology or teleradiology, we invite you to visit our blog or contact us with any questions.