Pathology forms one of the most common links among people today. Doctors rely on pathology labs to screen for diseases like cancer, diagnose illnesses, monitor disease programs and manage different treatments. With the advent of advanced technology it is not only the science of research that has benefitted it is also the communication between the pathologists and the treating doctor that is also set to evolve.
Today, there are more than 33 companies around the world providing digital pathology hardware, software and assorted services. The market for digital pathology is expected to break the $4.5 billion mark in 2018, and Asia stands to be one of the biggest markets for this. Understandably, adoption of technology comes with its own problems, however, the general perception among most in the field is that digitization will do for pathology what it did for radiology. Digital Radiology has been adopted by most major hospitals around the world and has been a resounding success. With pathology processes like whole-slide scanning, virtual microscopy, among others, technology is gradually moving towards global adoption, but is still a long way off.
Benefits of digital pathology
- Digital pathology can improve service delivery and patient communication to a great extent along with lower error rates, lower costs as well as better and more efficient use of data
- It provides a primary diagnosis of the disease for primary care facilities and reduce the turnaround time for the same
- The system extracts the data and analyzes the links between the tests and the treatment so as to have better outcomes
- It provides pathologists with a complete history of the patient’s care and treatment
- Digital pathology completely removes geographical boundaries and limitations and empowers people
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- It helps one manage their health through electronic medical records to which they have complete access
- It helps the pathologists interact with the patients better and more effectively
- Allows for doctors to share information more readily helping medical practitioners around the world be more aware of prevailing treatment trends and health concerns
Barriers to adoption
- There have been significant technical concerns pertaining to whole slide imaging, including the ability to scan at high magnification and at multiple focal planes
- Concerns have been raised about image quality and image access speeds, but changing technologies could make these moot
- Regulatory approvals regarding the technology across the globe will take time and is often strewn with red tape
- There have been voices expressing dismay at the amount of data storage capacities that will be required for something digital pathology, a cloud based model has also been argued
- The human element of the process also would require training and a gradual adoption of the technology to ensure maximum efficacy, which may take time
- Badly organized work-flow could lead to important facts slipping through the cracks. It is essential for digital pathology to have a stringent work-flow to ensure efficiency
The future of pathology
Digital pathology, according to practitioners, is more than just a tool. It effectively encompasses the complete pathological process from beginning to end. We have available now smart scanners that can analyze slides, software that can enhance your pathology workflows and encourages collaboration. Digital pathology is a system that allows for a patient to receive the best medical care and diagnosis from anywhere in the world. With Canada and the European Union accepting digital pathology for primary diagnosis of whole slide images the future seems bright. Digital technology can enhance and transform health care and make processes therein far simpler and more effective for both, the doctors and patients.
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