Curious about what the future of digital pathology will look like? Here’s what we think you’ll be seeing.
In parts of Africa, there is only one pathologist for every 1.5 million people. Even in the United States pathologists are retiring faster than they are being replaced.
Specialized pathologists are increasingly rare. This makes the diagnosis of specific cases harder but digital pathology offers an answer.
Super-sharp imagery and the technology that supports remote working mean pathology has taken a huge step forward. Where does it go from here? Here’s a look ahead into the future of digital pathology.
What is Digital Pathology?
Most medical interventions involve some level of pathology. Digital pathology is an application of imaging that allows a pathologist to work remotely. Detailed photography provides the pathologist with scans of samples.
The remotely working pathologist can then examine the image to determine whether the sample is benign or malignant. All this can be quick and accurate. A quick diagnosis means early treatment if necessary.
Before this technology, samples had to be taken, packaged in biohazard boxes and shipped to a pathology lab on or off-site.
The result of this new technology is a reduction in laboratory costs. Shipping is no longer needed. A central laboratory can serve many clinicians and patients, remotely.
Improved Asset Utilization
Shortages of pathologists are repeated across the world. With expectations for better healthcare rising everywhere, there is a gap to be bridged. Digital pathology developments are a timely answer to that need.
The future is likely to see greater use of pathology assets through the wider introduction of new digital pathology methods. Sharing images makes accessing centralized pathology services viable. It also supports connecting specialist pathologists with clinicians on the ground.
There is a pressure to improve efficiency throughout medical services.
Digital pathology provides a means of improving the efficiency of pathology. It also delivers efficiency improvements elsewhere. It’s likely that the medical world will want to leverage these.
Digitized slides can save lots of time for physicians. There is less time spent on physical samples, shipping, and reporting. Computerized imagery, searching, analysis, and records help communication and collaboration.
Workflow management in other industries is well developed and it can be applied to digital pathology too. Capturing imagery and passing it to a pathologist will be simple. Returning it to a physician with diagnostic reporting will become seamless.
There will be improvements in image resolution and data storage. Improved infrastructure will enable these developments.
Artificial Intelligence is increasingly touted as the source of major changes in the medical sphere. This is equally true for pathology. They key is to have sufficiently large data sets with which to train AI for applications in pathology.
When the critical mass of data is achieved for AI and pathology, it will recognize cancerous cells from slides. This will free up scarce pathologists. They will be able to do more difficult work.
As digital technologies get ever more sophisticated it will put more power in the hands of the clinician. Being able to capture samples, analyze them and have a diagnosis on-the-spot is likely.
A handheld device offering almost instant feedback to the physician could very well be a realistic part of the physician’s equipment, much as the stethoscope has been in the past.
Digital pathology will be transformative for pathology and for medical services and research. The future of pathology is digital. New digital pathology methods will continue to emerge.
If you’d like to learn more about digital pathology, contact us today.