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The global digital pathology market is expected to nearly double in the next five years, going from a market of $613 million in 2020 to almost $1,200 million by 2025.
The growth is being attributed to the early success that this innovation has proven. From enhancing lab efficiency to the role it is playing in drug development and companion diagnostics.
So what exactly is digital pathology? And how does it work to improve our lives?
To find the answer to these questions and more, keep reading this informative guide and you too can understand why this new technology is expected to become so popular over the next few years.
What is Digital Pathology?
Digital pathology involves the acquisition, management, sharing, and interpretation of diseases through the use of glass slides and data presented in a digital environment.
Digital images are presented when glass slides are viewed through a scanning device, providing high-resolution images that can be used by pathologists to study microorganisms.
Through automated digital scanners, entire glass slides can be captured and magnified to provide superior viewing. The digital slides can also be shared over networks by utilizing software applications. The interpretation of these slides can also be assisted by using automated analysis tools.
The idea of telepathology – the practice of studying pathology from a distance- has been around for almost 50 years. In 1986, Ronald Weinstein, who was an academic pathologist, coined the term. In the last few years, pathology has been moving into a more digital environment to take advantage of new software applications and high-speed networking including labs like Specialist Direct.
How is it Used?
Digital Pathology works by integrating software applications to enhance the pathologist’s abilities to diagnose and potentially offer treatment options to other members of the treatment team.
Digital transformation is used in three main ways.
- Research Institutions (pharmaceutical companies, CROs, and academic medical centers) – To study, collect and manage millions of specimens. They are currently trying to leverage this information to develop new drugs and medicine to combat disease
- Clinical Labs – Use digital pathology on certain cases for remote consultations, education, and analysis.
- Case Centers – Clinical labs are utilizing artificial intelligence to assist with digital pathology. The artificial intelligence can help
- Assign cases to certain pathologists with a specialty in the area
- Manage workflow
- Analyze specific cases and offer quantitative analysis
- Automatically record, manage, and save data for clinical labs in a laboratory information system (LIS)
- Expand access to certain cases beyond what was previously offered
The use of digital pathology has eliminated the wait time associated with sending physical samples to laboratories.
What are the benefits?
The interpretation of glass slides has been around for centuries. With improved processes such as digital pathology, the wait times have been significantly improved. The benefits don’t stop there, this innovation has improved the quality and productivity of many medical professionals and practices.
With more pathologists retiring than those entering the practice, it is expected to have a shortage in the future. This proves how crucial it is to have innovative processes designed to improve the lives of these individuals and the people in need of treatment.
With that being said, the new technology behind digital pathology will ease the shortage of medical professionals by improving the efficiency behind these practices. Some of the other benefits this technology can provide include:
- Improved Analysis – Algorithms help analyze slides much quicker and efficiently than microscopy. With access to previous cases, it will provide easy cross-referencing for easier diagnosis.
- Reduced Errors – This process will help eliminate human error that could lead to mislabeling or breakage of the slide.
- Better Viewing – With new angles and an enhanced zoom feature, pathologists will have a much easier time viewing slides.
- Improved Workflow – Automation and remote access create a streamlined workflow, making it easier to outsource and collaborate on different cases.
- Reduced Wait Times – The automation behind this process significantly reduces wait times.
- Encourages Even More Innovation – The ease of information encourages pathologists to become more specialized, resulting in improved medical services. The practices can then be used in other demographics helping underdeveloped countries. It can also be used for teaching and training purposes.
Looking Into the Future
Looking at trends in the industry shows a promising future for digital pathology. It is expected to continue to innovate and provide exceptional results. As with any new technology it is expected the price to come down in the next few years providing more opportunities for innovation and collaboration.
With the integration of artificial intelligence in this application, it will provide opportunities for different departments to collaborate and work together on solving common issues.
There are already some labs that have set up their digital pathology systems to automatically load certain images to be uploaded into their picture archiving communication systems. This will allow physicians to view and show the patient the slide that the diagnosis is coming from.
Pathologists will be able to work more efficiently and handle the increased workload. Patients will be able to get results quicker with more accurate diagnoses. The collaboration and ease of information will provide many opportunities to innovate and come up with solutions for the more extreme cases that we are presented with.
Digital pathology has already provided tremendous educational opportunities to many. The technology provides a unique way of providing exact content that can be interpreted in the real world instead of cut slides or theories. The improved accessibility will provide a new generation of healthcare workers the necessary information to handle the extreme events going on in the world today.
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