Medical errors account for 251,000 deaths in the United States every year. With medical science working constantly to eliminate dangerous sources of error, preserving accurate patient data is essential.
Whole slide imaging, also known as virtual microscopy, allows you to preserve pathology data in high-resolution digital files. This prevents patient data from getting lost or damaged. Not only is digital whole slide imaging on the cutting edge of telehealth technology, but it can prevent data loss and medical mistakes as well.
Have you integrated digital imaging in pathology into your practice? If you haven’t yet, now is the time to reap its benefits. Keep reading to learn what whole slide imaging is and how it can help your practice.
How Does Whole Slide Imaging Work?
Whole slide imaging transforms a prepared microscopy slide into a high-resolution digital image. This involves several steps, using both hardware and software.
First, the pathologist prepares the slide as usual for microscopic viewing.
The pathologist inserts the slide into a hardware machine called a whole slide imaging scanner. The scanner uses a high-powered microscope to record an image of the slide. Then, the whole slide image scanner converts that image into a digital file.
Next, the pathologist uses virtual slide imaging software the view the image.
Using a computer, pathologists can examine the digital slide as they would view a physical one. They can zoom in and otherwise manipulate the image for better reading. They can also save, send, and pull up the digital file as needed.
What are the Benefits of Whole Slide Imaging?
Converting hard-copy slides to digital files has a slew of benefits. Not only are digital files more user-friendly for practitioners, but they can benefit patients too.
Traditional pathology slides degrade over time. Even if you have space to store the original slide, it loses its clarity and becomes harder to read.
Once the slide has deteriorated, other medical professionals have to rely on the pathologist’s notes to understand what the sample contained.
With whole slide image analysis, you never lose the sample’s clarity. You can retrieve the digital image from your computer or database at any time. The slide remains clear so that you can re-examine it as much as you need to.
Easy Data Storage
Physical slides (and photos of slides) are bulky. They take up valuable record-keeping space. Digital files take up far less room than physical ones.
Keeping a digital copy of data saves space, time, and trouble in keeping records. Since digital files are easier to search than hard copies, whole slide images are easier to retrieve than physical images or hard-copy charts as well.
Portable and Sharable
Telehealth relies on digitally sharing data. Digital slides let you send data to a remote team.
Instead of sending potentially inaccurate photos, digital whole slide imaging lets you send the computer-generated scan right to your telehealth team. They can view it through their whole slide image analysis software. The diagnostic image gets to your telehealth partners without compromising the image.
Improves Healthcare Accessibility
With a mere 2.4% of health plans including telehealth before the pandemic, COVID-19 has demonstrated that the future of healthcare is remote. Accessibility is a key challenge to providing telehealth.
Providing patient-to-physician access isn’t the only challenge. Physicians must be able to conference with their colleagues who may be far away. They need ways to exchange information in a secure, HIPAA-compliant manner.
Whole slide imaging is a step forward for accessible healthcare. Microscopy images were previously difficult to preserve and share, especially over distance. Now, physicians can share diagnostic slides with colleagues around the world in a HIPAA-safe way.
Advances in Whole Slide Imaging
The first attempts to take pictures of pathology slides occurred in the 1990s. These were mostly limited to mounting cameras inside microscopes to take a picture of the microscope’s view.
These early attempts at digital slide imaging could only capture a small part of each slide in each picture. Because of limited technology, the photographs were low-resolution. As well, operator error could compromise the images.
Today’s digital slide imaging has made many advances, including:
- Automatic scanning functions, decreasing operator error
- Scanning the whole slide instead of one view of it
- High-resolution images
- Additional functions like live-viewing mode
Thanks to advances in telepathology technology, whole slide imaging scanners are more user-friendly than ever before. They are also faster and more compact.
Who Should Use Whole Slide Imaging?
Whole slide imaging isn’t just for the clinical setting. Digital imaging in pathology allows you to share and receive images from anywhere in the world.
The medical community can use whole-slide imaging in:
- Using pathology images in medical education
- Publishing findings in medical journals
- Recording findings for medical archives
- Researching past findings from medical archives
Telehealth services use whole-slide imaging to diagnose pathologies over distance. Sharing diagnostic data instantly can cut down on wait times and save lives.
Make Telehealth Technology Work For You
Digital medicine continues to make progress. Converting to digital imaging in pathology can cut down on dangerous medical errors and speed up telehealth solutions.
Whole slide imaging lets you save data so that you can access it whenever you need it. You can also send slides to other medical professionals to get a range of opinions.
Today’s digital healthcare landscape requires end-to-end HIPAA-compliant solutions. Are you ready for telehealth solutions that can transform your practice? Get in touch with us for your free consult today.