Has your institution incorporated digital pathology into the workflow? Do you worry about the accuracy of integrating this tool?
A 2020 meta-analysis reviewed 25 publications and 10,410 samples. The concordance rate was 98.3 percent with a 95 percent confidence interval.
Telepathology and other virtual services are expanding access to specialty services. Keep reading to learn more about digital pathology.
Telepathology for Healthcare Providers
Today, healthcare providers can access several types of telepathology to meet their needs. The following provides an overview of these options.
Robotic Real-Time Telepathology
Pathologists now have the ability to control a microscope located at another facility. These specialized microscopes have a built-in or attached camera. This gives the pathologist a real-time, high-resolution image to study.
Pathologists may communicate with the onsite lab technicians via video calls. This live interaction improves accuracy and also facilitates learning.
Virtual Slide Systems
Frozen section biopsies have been a standard part of pathology for decades. Virtual slide systems create a digital version of frozen sections.
Whole Slide Imaging (WSI) scanners have digital cameras, software, and microscopes. They’re also equipped with a slide loader and robotic manipulators.
These high-tech telepathology scanners conduct WSI. The result is a digital copy of a microscopic-level glass slide.
Their high resolution allows for detailed examination in a variety of subsets. Also, these digital “specimens” don’t degrade over time like biological samples.
They’re portable making them accessible to patients in remote areas. The pathologist then conducts their examination from their resident lab. This provides an expert diagnosis for patients in any location.
How is Digital Pathology Performed?
When the pathologist receives the scanned slide, they perform an initial evaluation. This includes assessing the general texture, size, spatial distribution, and color. The next step is focusing on areas of interest.
High-resolution monitors help identify abnormal areas quicker on low-power digital images. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools point out regions that may need further study. Magnification-sensitive tracking applications also generate flags to enhance the detection of small particles.
These specialized systems include tools that measure, quantify, and document results. The pathologist can examine several slides side-by-side.
They’re able to interlink the slides and move them synchronously. Pathologists can also superimpose images to enhance spatial correlation using different stains.
Benefits of Digital Pathology
Digital pathology enhances the evaluation of tissue samples from any location. In some instances, the facility may not have physical access to a pathologist. Using today’s virtual technology, there’s no delay in diagnosis and the start of treatment.
Even for organizations that have pathologists onsite, digital scans offer many benefits. AI and machine learning (ML) systems point out areas that might be overlooked. This improves the diagnostic accuracy and turn-around times.
Digital pathology offers benefits to several key forces in the pathology field. Examples include:
- Reduction in the number of experienced pathologists
- Limited healthcare resources globally
- Increasing volume of healthcare data: electronic health records, digital images, etc.
- Regulatory standards for protecting electronic personal health information (ePHI)
- The need to harness big data using ML-based algorithms
Digital technology systems use AI to manage the big data generated in the patient care cycle. Increasing easy access to the patient’s complete history enhances care. This improves initial pathology diagnosis, classification, and prognosis for disease progression.
Initiating the use of digital pathology reduces errors. For example, this eliminates the risk of glass slide breakage. The barcode labeling lowers the incidence of slide misidentification.
Real-time video discussions foster collaboration between healthcare professionals. It also provides optimal education opportunities. This makes it easier for pathologists to become more specialized.
Digital Pathology Tips
When implementing a new digital pathology system, success relies on effective planning. The following tips offer a guide to optimizing the transition.
Create a Planning Team
The planning team must include representatives from all stakeholders. Don’t forget remote individuals involved in the process.
Always include an information technology (IT) department member on your planning team. You will need their expertise in integrating and maintaining new systems. It’s key to have their buy-in from the start.
They’ll have the expertise to check the storage, networking, and cybersecurity needs. The IT member understands the tool requirements, budgets, and implementation timelines. This assists the planning team in setting short- and long-term specification priorities.
Map the Work Flow
Begin by creating a detailed map of the workflow. Make a list of equipment needed, specific processes, and who will fill specific roles.
Conduct pilot studies to identify areas for improvement. This also shows you exactly which products and solutions work best in your setting.
Develop a Written Plan
Develop a written statement describing each phase of the digital conversion process. This includes acquiring the image, pre-analytics, and management and analysis of images.
Schedule an Evaluation Period
Before converting to a digital process, set an initial evaluation schedule. During this time, use both non-digital and digital processes for tissue diagnosis. Compare the findings and make changes to the digital workflow as needed.
Educate Key Personnel
Provide training for all personnel involved in the process at all locations. This may involve face-to-face teaching, peer-to-peer, virtual tutorials, or a combination. Allow plenty of time for training to reduce problems down the road.
Begin Digital Pathology
Once you completed the education and testing phase, you’re ready for the rollout. Provide support as needed to assist staff members when digital pathology goes live.
Conduct periodic audits to ensure that all systems are functioning optimally. Discuss problems or process improvements with the planning committee and the vendors.
Are You Ready to Start Telehealth?
Digital pathology and other telehealth modalities are enhancing patient care globally. Specialist Direct offers end-to-end telecardiology, telepathology, and teleradiology. We’re proud to meet our customer’s turnaround needs.
Our solutions encompass project management, training, and customer support. We use Board Certified specialists and picture archiving and communication systems. All systems are HIPAA compliant and reside in a secure cloud-based environment.
You find that our rates are very competitive. We keep our overhead costs low and pass those savings along to our customers. Contact us today for a free consultation.