As of 2015, the global telemedicine market was valued at a staggering $18 billion and has only continued to grow since then. It helps patients all over the world connect with doctors and specialists from the comfort of their homes.
But did you know that as clinicians, you can also benefit from telemedicine? Specialty fields like pathology have taken advantage of modern technology, allowing physicians unprecedented access to their services regardless of location.
But what is telepathology, and how can your practice take advantage of it? Read on to find out.
What Is Telepathology?
Telepathology is pathology that’s done remotely via telecommunication. Physicians send images and data sets to pathologists who then review them and provide a diagnosis.
Ronald S. Weinstein MD, the father of telepathology, coined the phrase in “Prospects for Telepathology”, a 1986 editorial published in Human Pathology. Since then, telecommunications technology has provided pathology services to thousands of patients in the United States and around the world.
The Types of Telepathology Services
Telepathology can take a variety of forms depending on a practice’s budget and needs. There are three main types of systems used today.
Image-based telepathology is the least expensive and easiest to use. However, it also has the most limitations.
In this system, a doctor or technician takes photos of a tissue sample under a microscope. These static slide images are then sent off to a remote pathologist for evaluation.
The largest downside to this approach is that the pathologist only has a set number of digital images to choose from. This may mean that they’re missing important parts of the sample. Even so, it’s still a great way for doctors to access pathology services if they don’t have an in-house path lab.
Virtual Slide Systems
In some cases, whole virtual slide imaging can do away with the need to store and send off traditional glass slides.
First, tissue samples get preserved as permanent or frozen sections and mounted on a slide. Next, automated slide scanners capture a high-resolution image of the entire thing.
These virtual slides are then stored in a secure digital pathology database. Telepathologists can view them from wherever they’re located.
Digital slide images are helpful because they don’t take up storage space or get damaged. They also promote continuity of care because any clinician with the right credentials can access them.
Real-time systems are one of the latest and greatest advances in pathology image technology. A remotely-controlled robotic microscope in your practice lets pathologists perform virtual microscopy from wherever they are.
With this approach, you don’t have to photograph or scan any slides. Just place your sample under the scope and the pathologist can take it from there.
One of the largest benefits of a real-time system is the opportunity for video collaboration. You can set up a call with the pathologist and see exactly what they’re seeing, discussing results as you go.
Could Your Practice Benefit from Telepathology?
As a clinician, you strive to provide your patients with fast and accurate diagnoses. But if you don’t have a pathologist on staff, your patients may have to see another specialist or wait for weeks to get their results back from a lab.
Connecting with a telepathology service can get rid of these concerns. If you’d like to learn more about how telepathology could benefit your practice, contact us today.