The number of challenges facing the healthcare industry globally continues to skyrocket. And we’re not just talking about the effects of the pandemic. Staff and budget shortages and unequal access to healthcare, are a few of the issues we face.
According to the WHO, collaborative efforts are key in overcoming these challenges. But how can technology help to facilitate these efforts? Keep reading as we explore the future of telepathology and how it’s revolutionizing global medicine.
What Is Telepathology?
Pathology is the study of the causes and effects of injury and illness. Telepathology is the mediated form of this practice. It allows for the transfer of images and other medical data to remote locations. This is so that pathologists are able to work without the physical data present. For example, an oncologist in Seattle may be able to diagnose a cancer patient in New York through telepathology applications.
There are two main streams of telepathology. Static-based systems, and real-time systems. Static-based systems involve digitized, transferrable images of specimens. These static images are a more cost-effective option. However, they are limited when it comes to further exploration into the specimen.
As the name suggests, real-time systems allow for practitioners to view actual data, live and in real-time. This is through advanced microscopic, video, and imaging technologies. These allow data to be shared remotely and are more comprehensive than static imagery.
A Brief History of Telepathology
Telepathology was developed in the 1980s by pathologist Ronald Weinstein in Massachusetts. Early telepathology relied on static imagery. This was taken from slides of specimens to be viewed by other practitioners in remote locations.
Earlier forms of this technology did not allow for much exploration of medical specimens. The quality of the imagery also left a lot to be desired. From 1985 onward, innovation in the field of telepathology soared. Telepathology spread globally to become a standard term and practice in medicine.
Today, telepathology systems consist of powerful microscopes, high-resolution imaging, and video software. Most importantly this technology is able to connect to other devices. Now, telepathology allows practitioners to remotely control the microscopic device. This is in order to get a fully-formed picture of the specimen.
Why Is It Important?
Telepathology has revolutionized medical education, research and, diagnosis. A shortage of medical specialists has long been a thorn in the side of healthcare systems globally. If you need to see a specialist that isn’t in your location, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive the best possible diagnosis and care possible.
However, telepathology is providing a tech-based solution to this issue. This is because it allows for the expansion of medical care to locations beyond that of the practitioner.
Telepathology is also an easy means of digitally archiving medical data. This means that important specimens can be easily viewed and used in case studies, research, and education settings.
Advances in Telepathology
So what does the future of this ever-evolving medical technology look like? Static-based and real-time technologies are still central. But the future of telepathology focuses on improving quality, accessibility, and ease of use. Below, we look at some of the technology trends that are emerging in telepathology applications.
Early telepathology solutions were big, bulky, and difficult to transport. One of the biggest advancements in this field is the development of smaller, lighter technologies. These technologies are able to share data between multiple devices, from iPads to smartphones.
Small, lightweight slide scanners allow for the collection, processing, and analysis of specimens. And this can be done outside of hospital settings! This makes telepathology more accessible. It bridges a divide between urban and rural healthcare access.
Higher Quality Imagery
In this field, quality is everything. Static-based systems are still widely used in telepathology but research shows that these systems can be limited. This is particularly true when it comes to diagnostics.
This is mainly attributed to field selection, as mentioned above, and image quality. However, advances in telepathology are focused on providing high-quality imagery. This is achieved through the use of automated focus and z stitch functionality.
But what if static imagery systems still leave room for uncertainty? Collaboration between healthcare professionals is essential in ensuring complete accuracy in interpretation.
Telepathology solutions now give practitioners the option to view specimens in live mode, alongside their colleagues. The ability to view the same specimens from different locales facilitates dialogue and can improve the accuracy of diagnoses.
Telepathology enables healthcare practitioners to partner with companies and outsource their specimens for diagnosis. Outsourcing to specialists can provide accurate results in under an hour. In medicine, time is an essential resource. A speedy diagnosis leaves doctors with more time to focus on patients and treatment options.
A Broader Spectrum of Knowledge
Another advancement in the field of telepathology is how this technology connects a broader field of specialists. Telepathology companies employ a wide array of medical specialists, on-call 24/7, 365 days a year.
These specialists come from a broad range of medical specialities. Telepathology allows them to quickly receive and analyze medical specimens. Every medical field is covered from renal and gastrointestinal pathology to lung and neuropathology.
Telepathology: The Future of Healthcare
From its humble beginnings in a Massachusetts research facility, telepathology solutions have spread globally and are constantly evolving. Advances in telepathology can be summed up in its ease of use, better connectivity, and exceptional quality. This technology has revolutionized the way we practice medicine and shows no sign of stopping. If you’re ready to embrace the new frontier of healthcare, get in touch or book a free consult today!