The main instruments used in Pathology have always been a microscope and glass slides holding tissue samples. The innovation of Digital Pathology, scanning slides to create digital images for viewing, is now poised to change the field of Pathology as we know it.
The evolution of both hardware and software enabling whole slide imaging has helped modernize the approach to Pathology. In supplying improvements to workflow efficiency and accuracy, it is no longer just Pathologists pushing for Digital Pathology. Policy-makers, decision-makers, and managers are looking for change too. The clinical deployment of Digital Pathology has now reached the point of adoption. Digital pathology will soon be part of every sector in which pathology touches!
Current Issues in the field of Pathology
- Being tied to a microscope and glass slides causes inefficiencies and hardships for a variety of reasons.
- Pathology work can only take place where the microscope resides
- Glass slides are subject to breakage and degradation, especially when exposed to transport
- Collaboration is inhibited by workflow paradigms
- Timeliness of patient care is affected by all the above
Benefits of Digital Pathology
Digitized Pathology reporting can help practices in many ways, but improvements can be categorized into four principal areas. These areas of improvements are related to:
- Patient safety
- Diagnostic workflow
- Workforce factors
- Overall service quality
Patient Safety, the cornerstone of clinical decision-making, is the main driver behind innovations in Digital Pathology. The use of an integrated Digital Pathology system offers countless benefits – most being related to the limitation of error at multiple points in the diagnostic workflow. Digital data sharing can be accomplished in a timelier manner. Digital slides offer an easily communicable and readable diagnostic substrate, which is not subject to the physical limitations and risks of glass slides as they are transported.
Overall, improved information sharing, collaboration, and safer transport methods will lead to better quality diagnoses.
The flexible use of digital pathology systems allows for improvements in diagnostic workflow, including the ability to distribute casework evenly. Digital access to slide data removes geographic barriers. There are no limits to file sharing and collaboration on cases. Diagnostic data can be accessed from any location with internet. Efficient workflows lead to quicker assessments for diagnoses.
Currently, the complexity and number of cases requiring Pathology assessment are increasing. Unfortunately, the number of candidates choosing to enter Pathology is decreasing. The result is higher caseloads requiring more time to assess and fewer Pathologists to assess them.
Reducing the workplace constraints required for diagnostics combined with the ease of use that digital diagnosis offers, allows the adoption of flexible work schedules. This helps optimize the workforce. Those who work less than full time can maximize the hours they offer. Those considering retirements have an incentive to continue offering their services on more flexible terms.
In general, flexible schedules allow for a more positive work-life balance. A positive workload choice could be very appealing to the next generation of Pathologists, increasing the recruitment of medical graduates into the specialty. With more certified Pathologists, caseloads are better distributed, leading to full circle improvements in workflow and work-life balance.
Overall Service Quality
Adoption of Digital Pathology allows practices more flexibility in supplying diagnostic pathology services to a population. This enhanced service quality benefits all involved in the diagnostic workflow including patients, Pathologists, lab technicians, and administrators.
Learn more about our technology for sharing digital images.