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Digital pathology is a technological change as much as it is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to share, save, and see things in slides you’ve never seen before.
Although the practice is not yet widespread, more labs and hospitals are switching to digital pathology as part of a modernization project or a switch to precision medicine. The industry is growing at such a fast rate that it’s expected to be worth $5.7 billion by the year 2020.
Is your organization looking for ways to improve workflow, provide better patient care, and save money? Digital pathology may be your answer.
What Is Digital Pathology?
Digital pathology, or virtual microscopy, is the process of transforming glass slides into digital information. These new slides are called whole slide images.
From beginning to end, it includes:
- Capturing data
- Managing data
- Analyzing data
- Interpreting data
Digitization requires the use of a scanner and imaging software solutions. But these aren’t simple scans: they aren’t degraded. When the analog images from glass slides become digital, they’re stored in ones and zeroes. Digital changes simplify storing and sharing the data.
The Use of Whole Slide Images
Turning to digital pathology isn’t about updating your files. The potential uses of digital pathology make digitization a process that’s long overdue.
A digital pathologist can use these images to:
- Make primary diagnoses
- Offer consultations and second opinions
- Employ telepathology
- Strengthen quality assurance
- Archive and share files
- Bring files to conferences and classrooms
With so many practical uses, digital imaging transforms pathology as we know it. Meanwhile, it will also make tasks easier without sacrificing quality.
Integrating Whole Slide Imaging for Precision Medicine
Transferring your glass slides to digital whole slide imaging is only part of the vision for achieving precision medicine.
Adding in other digital tools like digital dictation, barcoding, and specimen tracking also help your labor practice make the transition to precision medicine.
Benefits of Digital Pathology
Hospitals around the world are now switching to digital pathology. Their experiences are transforming the benefits of digital pathology from potentials to real-world practice improvements.
Here’s what hospitals who went digital are saying:
All Components Live in the Same Place
Glass slides come with mistakes because different components are housed in various places.
With a digital slide, every piece of the file is linked with a unique number. There are far fewer chances to misread a number and pull an incorrect file.
Additionally, you mark missing images and incomplete file numbers so that reporting is more straightforward and more accurate.
In the physical world, you’ll need to request a slide, go collect it and match the report to the slide number. Completing this task once in a while is easy. Pulling hundreds or thousands of slides is time-consuming even when your storage solution is stellar.
It’s time spent searching when you could be researching.
With digital slides, everything is linked, and more importantly, it’s at your fingertips. There’s no need to hunt down a borrowed or missing slide. You’ll get your materials and be on your way to a more efficient workflow.
Options for Comprehensive Viewing
You can optimize your viewing software to provide a better overview of your tasks. The software offers digital worklist tasks that allow you to mark numbers or sections for review. It also keeps the list of stainings and sections at hand. You can also mark slides to refer to and then click back and forth between them.
As a bonus, you can see the whole slide on your screen, which is impossible with a microscope. Zoom features make it easy to view both the parts and the whole of any slide.
Integrity in Storage
Physical slides are broken and break down. Some staining techniques lose integrity over time, leaving you with a useless slide in storage.
Slide integrity is ideal for storage today and tomorrow. Labs around the world find it easier to build and search large databases with machine learning programs. It encourages better diagnoses and even potential breakthroughs in pathology.
Taking measurements on digital slides is far simpler and more accurate than with a microscope and a physical slide. Teams also find it easier to annotate the slide. You’ll see diagnostics reach new levels of transparency and find issues in practice faster.
Opportunities for Education
The ease in sharing slides is critical for labs. Physical slides are demanding. Even when they’re correct, some require a microscope that isn’t present in a meeting, at a conference, or in another lab at all.
Labs find it easier to exchange slides for education, consultations, and outsourcing.
Going Digital: Barriers and Solutions
Switching from microscope to monitor comes with all kinds of benefits. You’ll enjoy improved workflow to better patient outcomes and even saving paper. Still, the transition has been slow outside the education and quality assessment niches.
Much of the slow uptake comes from the barriers faced by organizations. Those two barriers are training and attitude.
Pathologists may resist digitization because it is a different experience. Many professionals’ skills are exclusive to microscope work. Some worry that their diagnostic skills won’t match digital slides. Moreover, they aren’t sure how to adjust it.
In some cases, attitude is everything. A lack of interest in updating systems prevents departments around the globe from making the switch. A knowledge of the benefits of digital pathology is often the culprit.
Do you see these barriers at your organization? Both training and attitude barriers can be overcome with adequate training and support.
Share Your Stories of Going Digital
Has your organization switched to digital pathology yet? Why not?
From improved workflow to better diagnoses to simpler collaboration, the digitization of slides and other digital practices make healthcare simpler and more cost-effective.
Ready to learn more about what digital and telepathology mean for medicine? Contact us today to learn how digitization can transform your business.