The implementation of digitized medical record systems or electronic health records (EHRs) across the US has put patient information at the physician’s fingertips. US based medical transcription services play a key role in ensuring precise and timely EHR documentation. Even as it poses security concerns, digital health tools and services have become an integral part of people’s lives. One of the fields that has benefited from digitization in recent times is pathology.
According to the Digital Pathology Association, digital pathology incorporates “the acquisition, management, sharing and interpretation of pathology information – including slides and data – in a digital environment”.
In traditional microscopy, pathologists view glass slides under the microscope to provide a diagnosis. Glass slides or specimens need to be physically delivered to the pathology lab, which can delay diagnosis and patient care. Digital pathology on the other hand, provides pathology information in a digital environment. Glass microscope slides are scanned to create high-resolution digital images that can be viewed on a computer screen or mobile device.
The FDA authorized digital pathology for primary diagnosis in the U.S. in 2017. Factors driving the digitization of pathology include the increase in teleconsultations, measures to enhance lab efficiency, and use of digital pathology in disease diagnosis as a result of integration of digital pathology with digital tools, barcoding, specimen tracking, and digital dictation (www.globenewswire.com). Let’s see how digital pathology is improving the safety, quality, and efficiency of disease diagnoses in pathology laboratories.
- Improved workflow: Digital files can be used multiple times for diagnostics, sharing, and instructive purposes. Pathologists can save time spent on viewing and analyzing hundreds of specimen slides under a microscope. With digital images of tissues, pathologists can share digital images of tissues with healthcare providers in different locations – with just a click of the mouse.
- Improved and faster diagnosis: In conventional pathology, slides had to be shipped to other specialists, which could lead to delays, higher costs, and also increased risk of material damage or breakage. With digital pathology, second opinions can be obtained faster, and patients and clinicians no longer have to wait a long time for the diagnosis.
- Lowers costs: Sharing tissue slides digitally will help critical health information to be made available to patients and healthcare professionals not only faster but also at lower cost. It could also allow high throughput for volume pathology.
Other benefits of digital pathology as listed by Medical Sectra include:
- Minimizes risk of missing data: Digital files can be easily stored and archived. Each image is automatically linked to the correct report via a unique number. Slides can no longer be lost and missing images can be marked
- Improves pathologists’ efficiency: Digital work lists improve the pathologists’ efficiency by allowing them to easily keep track of their work. They can view tissue sections completed, those that need to be reviewed, which should be prioritized, and other details. Further, digitization increases flexibility by allowing pathologists to work from anywhere at any time.
- Enhances analytical capabilities: In microscopic slide examination only a particular section of the tissue can be seen even at the lowest magnification. Digitization allows the entire slide to be viewed and analyzed on the monitor as well as zooming in to examine various areas. Further, several staining can be compared side by side. When viewed alongside with radiology images, digital pathology files can improve diagnostics.
- Allows archiving: Digital pathology files can be easily stored and viewed at any time.
The digital pathology market is growing. Reports indicate that the increasing incidence of chronic conditions will drive the need to adopt digital pathology. As pathology laboratories seek to improve diagnostics via digitization, pathology transcription services can help ensure accurate documentation for laboratory reports.