Robotic microscopes are some of the most exciting advances in modern telepathology. You can use them to detect illness or disease in real-time, even if the pathologist is a thousand miles away.
These real-time systems could increase health systems’ diagnostic times around the United States. These systems could eventually improve access to pathologists around the world.
Pathology, of course, is the study of illness and disease. It’s done by doctors who specialize in tissue analysis. There are roughly 18 different types of pathologists.
If you know of someone who is diagnosed with cancer, a pathologist likely conducted the lab work.
Some 1.73 million people in the United States alone will be told they have cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. That’s a lot of pathology tests and samples.
And a recent study claims that the need for more pathologists will increase to match the United States aging population. This where telepathology and new tech can help.
Types of Telepathology
What is telepathology? It is the use of telecommunications and the internet to conduct the study of illness and disease. There are three types of systems. The systems consist of real-time, virtual slide, and image-based telepathology.
Image-based systems are the simplest to use and the most cost-effective. These systems simply take and display pictures captured on a standard slide. These are generally lower-quality images and have limited user functionality for the pathologist.
But these systems may be perfect for offices not interested in storing thousands of high definition samples. They may also be useful to labs whose primary focus is not telepathology.
Image-based systems, as well as the other modes, have a significant advantage over traditional slides. There’s no discoloration, and once you capture an image, there’s little degradation of the data.
A more advanced imaging technique is the use of virtual slide systems. These systems use a high definition to make a digital copy of the sample. They are eliminating glass slides.
The advantage of this scanner technique is that the specimen can view in several ways, even though multispectrum imaging. Also, the pathologists will find the images produced by these scanners highly accurate. Even after several viewings, the images stay sharp.
The longevity of these images makes them perfect for educational purposes or future reference.
However, these systems do cost more than image-based systems. The scanners have many more features, and the images take a lot of storage space, either locally or in the cloud, that can be costly.
Three-dimensional scans are an interesting future application for virtual-slide scanner technology. With these 3D scans, pathologists can explore samples from different angles. And pathologists will eventually venture inside the tissue images at a microscopic level.
But maybe the most futuristic imaging method is the real-time system. It uses a robotically controlled microscope to conduct examinations. The operator of the system does not have to be in the room with the patient. The pathologist or a consulting specialist is also viewing the sample elsewhere.
The robotic microscope is also equipped with a communications system, usually some sort of microphone. The microphone enables all the participants to speak together. The system also has a digital camera for taking images and generating video.
Here are five ways real-time systems can be of great benefit.
Real-time systems allow the pathologist and a patient’s surgeon or general practitioner to see a tissue sample at the same moment. The viewing is usually done by transmitting a microscopic image onto a large monitor.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that this system sparks a lot of collaboration. The doctors can also discuss the patient’s results in real-time. They can do this by observing and speaking through a telephone or possibly through the real-time system. Also, if a patient needs a specialist, the pathologist can decide that soon after seeing the sample.
A quick referral is one of the most significant benefits to the patient. The speed in which real-time telepathology systems operate at is astounding.
Real-time systems some of the most expensive telepathology tech out there. The hardware is costly, and the images captured by the tech’s digital cameras capture hi-resolution images and videos.
These high-resolution encrypted data can be expensive to store, either in a physical server or in the cloud. So, where’s the cost savings?
Recent studies show that health systems can find significant saving by using these real-time systems. Regional hospitals can remote operate the microscopes from offsite. Then pathologists in a central hub can give their evaluations.
The remote evaluations can save these health-care providers millions. They don’t have to transport costly glass slides. They cut down on administrative costs and increase efficiencies.
And it is speculated that pathologists get more job satisfaction by being able to work from anywhere and on their schedules sue to these remote systems.
Social Distancing and Real-Time Systems
In the pandemic era, these real-time remote systems have shown their value. These systems make remote work entirely possible.
In general, real-time systems only require an internet connection. This remote viewing keeps pathologist away from other lab workers, the patients, and even out of the hospital.
Storage and Education
Real-time systems are equipped with digital video cameras for recording samples. These samples will not degrade like slides, and the images can be copied and edited.
The high-quality of the samples over time allows for a significant number of educational opportunities. The slides can also be revisited at a later date and appear very near their original state.
These digital images are unlike physical slides, which can degrade over time.
Encryption and Privacy
The feeds from these real-time systems are encrypted. That means that a patient’s data and personal medical information should remain secure. Encryption and storage of these digital files are state of the art and is part of the larger price tag for these systems.
It’s just one of the five ways these real-time systems are on the cutting-edge of telepathology.
If you want more information about real-time systems or want to learn more about other telepathology technology, please contact us today.