What is Digital Pathology?

Digital pathology encompasses the acquisition, management, sharing and interpretation of pathology information (including data and slides) in a digital setting.

When glass slides are captured with a scanning device, digital slides are created to provide a high-resolution digital image that can be seen on a computer screen or portable device. These digital slides can be shared across networks employing specialized digital pathology software applications.

History of Digital Pathology

100 years ago, specialized equipment was first employed to capture images from a microscope onto photographic plates. Transmitting microscope images between remote locations, known as telepathology, has been around for almost 50 years. However, it is only in recent years that pathology has undergone a full digital transition, moving from an analog to an electronic setting.

Benefits of Digital Pathology

Digital pathology permits pathologists to engage, evaluate and collaborate rapidly and remotely with transparency and consistency. This greatly improves efficiency and productivity. With the help of digital pathology, data is all in one place and the process is faster and more efficient. Up to four slides can also be viewed together, making it easier to compare multiple stainings and the slides can also be annotated.

Algorithms for analyzing slides are objective, accurate and faster than microscopy and the data storage which is incorporated with digital pathology allows for long-term predictive analytics. Additionally, algorithms for analyzing slides are objective, accurate and faster than in microscopy.

Digital pathology also reduces errors by eliminating breakages and barcoding which reduces the risk of misidentification. It can also improve productivity in the short and long term by encouraging collaboration and streamlining workflow.

Time spent retrieving, data matching and organizing is reduced and as such, turnaround times are reduced. Digital pathology also allows pathologists to become more specialized by producing big data, allowing practices to extend across countries and provides better tools for teaching and training.

Whilst digital solutions can be costly, they are a long term investment as they save money on courier services, travelling for peer reviews and reduce the need for overtime.

The Future of Digital Pathology

In the future, digital pathology could encompass enhanced translational research, computer aided diagnosis (CAD) and personalized medicine. Glass slides are necessary as pathology starts with a collected tissue, even if they are later transferred to a digital scan. Nowadays, pathology goes beyond tissues or scans, it helps to improve quality and productivity.

There is a huge workforce shortage of pathologists and there are currently more pathologists retiring than entering the field. Pathology needs new approaches and the full adoption of digital pathology gives benefits that cannot be achieved with just glass slides.

Digital pathology is seeing increased use by large biopharmaceuticals and top clinical research organizations to streamline the drug development processes in discovery, pre-clinical trials. There is also opportunity for the possible future use digital pathology for quantitative analysis of emerging companion diagnostic and novel theranostics.  At MIPAR, we specialize in efficiently, accurately, and reliably extracting measurements from complex images. Contact us to find out how this can benefit the next generation of digital pathologists.