Digital pathology continues to gain momentum and is becoming more commonplace in pathology laboratories around the world. The list of compelling reasons to move to a digital pathology platform grows longer every day. A single image of a critical specimen can potentially aid in a patient’s diagnosis, help determine their course of treatment, play a role in research and help educate the next generation of practitioners.
But at its core, moving to a digital pathology platform facilitates the sharing of pathology cases and images among colleagues and teams whose networks are expanding every day.
From a pathologist’s perspective, the advantages of digital pathology are even more obvious. Digital images offer improved access to analytic services and subspecialist expertise. Collaboration with fellow pathologists is central to the diagnostic process whether consulting with experts on difficult cases, reviewing their peers’ cases for quality assurance or sharing rare cases with each other. These difficult or interesting cases may be shared instantly, reducing or even eliminating the distance barrier to achieving a fast and accurate diagnosis.
Whether at a multidisciplinary tumor board, at a subspecialty conference or in a discussion between two colleagues, patients and doctors alike benefit from the collaboration of medical professionals. Even in small, non-academic practices, most pathologists are lifelong learners and natural teachers. Not only do these collaborations improve the quality of patient diagnoses, they expand each and every pathologists’ experience and help improve their skills.
In academic practices and medical schools, obtaining rare and unusual pathology cases is often a challenge, and reliance on glass slides which can be broken, lost or deteriorate over time can limit a student’s access to unique learning opportunities. Now, whole slide image repositories are available both in the public domain and by subscription, providing critical learning opportunities for all academic programs. The Digital Pathology Association provides a comprehensive list of repositories, many of which are available at no cost to users.
Researchers and scientists must also collaborate, and the transport of glass slides (or in some cases themselves) over vast distances is cumbersome at best. Today’s scientific community cannot be limited by the miles. In the field of pathology, the ability to share and discuss research via encrypted platforms using digital images is central to the advancement of knowledge. Many of these scientists are also taking advantage of machine learning technology to develop algorithms that will benefit patients with greater efficiency, better diagnostics and personalized treatments.
Finally, there are some patients who may have the desire to see the level of detail that pathology images offer in their disease process. Having an understanding of what is happening at the cellular level provides them with a better understanding of what their body may be experiencing. While this level of knowledge may not be for everyone, having digital access to their case results and images provides a patient with portability of their information, whether they want to request a second opinion or want to make sure they have access to their medical history down the road.
This sharing of whole slide images in pathology has brought the field to a whole new level of engagement. Whether for clinical diagnosis, research, education or patient support, access to digital pathology cases permits a level of sharing that is advancing the field like never before. Key to achieving the full potential that this technology has to offer requires that the various scanning devices and viewing systems are interoperable and can readily communicate with one another.
“Interoperability” and “system integration” have become key quality criteria for today’s image management systems. Corista’s DP3® is an image management system with these capabilities. The platform also supports a shared view of cases for synchronous and asynchronous consultative “chats”. A pathologist can consult directly with a colleague in real time, or if on different schedules or in different time zones, at their convenience.
As our professional and academic networks continue to expand across the miles, today’s digital technology can help bridge the barriers of time and space, helping pathologists and scientists share their knowledge and expertise to benefit patients all over the globe.