How digitalisation has shaped the future of pathology?

In healthcare industry, understanding diseases and their anatomy is possible through “pathology”. Till now, the methods have been the same as evolved more than a hundred years back however, much like every other industry, digital change is quite obvious here as well. The new technologies seem to have pushed the boundaries, transforming pathology in being more efficient and scalable. That being said, jobs of pathologists are now more creative and data-driven which allow patients to have their diagnoses faster and more accurate. Let’s explore the digital future of pathology!

Pathologists; valuable yet scarce assets

There seems to be a worldwide scarcity of pathologists and it’s predicted that the count is to drop even further. A study has concluded that the number of active pathologists would decrease by 30% till 2030 whereas the count is far more shocking in some parts of the world.



The Chinese Pathologist Association says that there’re only 20,000 licensed pathologists to look after a population of almost 1.5 billion whereas situation is far worse in parts of Asia and Africa. Elsewhere in Malaysia, a single pathologist is assigned to look after more or less 100,000 patients.

Even in the OECD countries, the situation isn’t all too good. Take for instance the United States where retiring of currently employed pathologists would increase by 2021 while the number of patients require specific pathological treatment rises.

The active role of digital technology

The coming of healthcare or online doctor apps and digitalisation of pathological laboratories makes the medical specialty far more efficient and its specimen more reproducible. This makes pathologists work convenient and less burdensome. A remarkable example is of digitalised Whole-Slide Imaging (WSI) which allows capturing and visualisation ofcomplete/entire tissue on a slide as compared to the constricted microscopic view. It eventually turns pathology more accurate and less subjective.



In addition, a digital slide saves significant time for physicians. In a typical hospital setting, various tissue samples are taken to the surgeon from the lab and back again to the pathologists which is strenuous and time consuming. On the contrary, a digital slide is safer, faster where computerised quantitative analytics promise quicker image search and retrieval of slides when looking onto older files. The barrier between healthcare facilities, regions and countries is condensed, facilitating referrals and consultations.

The digitalised pathological labs can further facilitate Chinese hospitals allowing them to share and retrieve slides from a cloud drive alongside other relevant data. Accessibility, privacy and political viability here isn’t a concern but many other important topics are covered. Digital technologies and their use, powered by Artificial Intelligence (A.I) transform the particular medical sector more productive, robust and quantitative. Such transformation brought us expert online medical consultant and imminent availability of professional doctor in the UAE.

Digitalised workflow

In a typical pathological laboratory, samples of blood, tissue extract and DNA is processed to provide accurate and relevant information crucial to identify underlying cause of the disease in a timely manner. It further provides a clear path to pursue for guidance and monitoring of the entire therapeutic procedure. Once the sample is ready, electronic microscope digitalise it for deep analysis with help of various scanning solutions.

Nowadays, several digital products are available in the market for shifting the entire pathological workload from manual to digital. The Whole-Slide Imaging (WSI) solutions like scanners, storage systems, software, communication systems, cloud drives all collaborate to make the laboratory work easier, more accurate and timely.



Empowered automation with deep learning

Exploiting Artificial Intelligence to its maximum potential is best through digitalised pathology however; this is just the first step into a larger world. That said, digitalisation of the slides is being practiced for more than five years now with further steps taken to extend the process for clinical use. Once the datasets are large enough, pathologists would be able to work with the deep learning algorithms for the best results and extensive use.

Conclusion

Both patients and physicians alike benefit from the transformation, exploiting better tools and enhanced medical professionals to save more lives and offering timely treatment to the patients.

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