Diagnosis is key in developing a treatment plan for any illness. The faster you can get a diagnosis, the faster you can begin treating the ailment. Delays in diagnosis may not be a crucial misstep when talking about a simple cold. But, when you’re talking about lung cancer, delaying treatment just a few more days can be the difference between life and death.
If you live in New York City, you can get a diagnosis the same day and a whole team of specialists on your case immediately. However, if you’re living in rural Alabama your access to specialized healthcare is vastly limited in comparison. What you need is a pathology solution that allows the same level of access no matter where a patient is located.
This is where digital pathology scanners come in. These machines allow sensitive medical data to be scanned at high speed and sent to remote pathology experts to be analyzed. These specialized teams of remote pathologists offer quicker analyses than traditional lab scenarios. Digital pathology images allow for image analysis that emulates the traditional microscope analysis in a fraction of the time.
This means you’ll receive expert care, no matter where you live, in a fraction of the time it takes to send a sample to an outside lab to be diagnosed. The image quality is second to none, allows for high quality images even in high volume scanning situations, and allows glass slides to be read by multiple doctors without ever going under a microscope.
Read on to find out more about how digital pathology scanners are changing the medical diagnostic landscape and helping make remote diagnosis a part of everyday healthcare.
What Is a Digital Pathology Scanner and How Does It Work?
Similar to how a flatbed scanner is used to transfer reproductions of papers or photos between computers, a pathology scanner transfers slide images to remote labs.
Using a specialized loading dock, the whole slides are loaded into a compartment and the slides are digitized into files. These scanners contain much more specialized camera equipment to make sure even minute details are transferred in the imaging scan.
Depending on the scanner, they can store a few slide images or up to a few hundred slide images at one time. The pathology scanner will scan the slides and reproduce images into a software. This software compresses these large data files into readable and transferable sizes.
Different Types of Scanning Capabilities
Depending on the application you need a few different types of scanning methods. Some specimens will require more detailed imaging than others. Most machines will allow for different types of scan modes to allow for all types of imaging. There are three main types of imaging for slides that also correlate to the different types of microscopy slide mounting:
- Live Viewing
Brightfield scanning emulates standard brightfield microscopy and is the most common and cost-effective approach. Fluorescent scanning is akin to fluorescent microscopy and is used to digitize fluorescently labeled slides.
Live viewing is utilized to have a moment by moment analysis in real-time by a specialist.
Each specimen and slide may require a different method to not degrade the sample. Also, depending on what you’re looking for, the lighting and coloring make a difference. If it’s a STAT case that makes a difference too.
Let’s look at what each type of scan is best for.
Brightfield scans use only white light to take the picture. If you only need the basic anatomy of the sample then a brightfield scan will be good enough to analyze what you need. It shows basic outlines and structures.
This type of scan is dependent on the absorption of light by the sample. It’s going to give you an overall picture but isn’t very detailed.
Fluorescence goes a step further in detail. A stain is used on the sample prior to completing a fluorescent scan so that different structures will be seen in different colors and shading.
Most samples will want to be viewed both ways to note the differences. So, you’ll want a telepathology scanner that has the capability to capture both types of images.
There are some tests that you’ll want a doctor viewing the sample in a live view. This means no image is being captured but it’s a video feed of the sample. The pathologist can give their analysis in real-time with no delay.
These real-time digital pathology interpretations allow for immediate second opinions and STAT analysis in a way that was impossible before.
Are Pathology Scanners Easy to Use?
Medical equipment is only as useful as it’s ease of application. If the machine is too complicated for your staff to run then it isn’t of great benefit to your practice.
The good news is that these scanners offer ease of use for any of your lab personnel. Each scanner will come with its own native software. It will also include instructions on how the slides need to be mounted to achieve the best results.
Your staff will be able to use the machine after only a few training sessions. Make sure the machine you choose offers a friendly user interface and makes it simple for the operator.
You’ll want to see if the software has a quality control aspect to make sure the slide scans are the highest quality possible. Before sending off the specimen make sure to check all the tissue has been captured and the image looks the same as it does under a microscope.
Make Sure You Have the Bandwidth to Store the Files
Pathology scanners output high-quality detailed images. This means they also come with large file sizes. Consider adding additional storage space to your internal network to handle these files. Dedicate it only to image storage.
Once the diagnosis is complete you can compress these files and store them within a zip drive in the patient’s file. If you keep hard copies of files you’ll want to consider putting them on a jump drive so you have the high definition full-size files on hand if you need to go back and look again or the patient wants to take them to another doctor for a second opinion.
But, Who Will Read the Scans?
This is where a remote specialist comes in. The best part of having a pathology scanner is the access it gives you to doctors all over the world. Your best bet is to partner with a team of remote specialist providers.
Obtaining a service that has access to hundreds of remote clinicians gives you and your patients access to advanced diagnosis in a fraction of the time. The remote specialist is able to read, analyze, and diagnose the specimen sometimes within the same visit as the procedure.
This also allows for integrated pathology services and the utilization of a number of different specialist analyses at the same time. These slide scanners can send the images onto the touch screens of doctors all over the country, meaning there is a higher chance of accurate diagnosis the first time.
This immediate diagnosis allows for advanced treatment planning in days rather than weeks. And, as we mentioned in the beginning, days, even minutes, matter when it comes to life-threatening ailments.
Ready to Bring Your Practice into the Digital Age?
Consider the implications of pathology scanning for your patients. Would it allow you to give them a higher quality of care? Yes. Would it cut down on the stress and anxiety of waiting for results? Yes.
Not only that but it also saves you money in the long run. You no longer have to have a specialist on staff. You won’t have to pay the high fees for lab analysis. Now, you’ll have the power of specialists at your fingertips and immediate answers for the person in front of you.
Look into the purchase of a pathology scanner today and make remote diagnosis possible for your patients. Take it to the next level and partner with the telehealth professionals at Specialist Direct.
They have teams of providers ready to help you give your patients the experience they deserve. Quick and effective diagnosis saves lives, we want to help you do just that.