Digital pathology

What is digital pathology? Digital pathology includes the acquisition, management, sharing and interpretation of pathology information — including slides and data — in a digital environment. Digital slides are created when glass slides are captured with a scanning device, to provide a high-resolution image that can be viewed on a computer screen or mobile device.

Digital pathology has the potential to improve patient care, and support the pathology workforce by making the diagnosis and monitoring of disease much more efficient. However, in order to transform pathology services, we need investment to support IT infrastructure, staffing and training.

THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL PATHOLOGY

Digital pathology:

  • Benefits patients by enabling the rapid referral of cases between organisations or across pathology networks, enhancing access to expert advice and opinion on diagnoses
  • Improves laboratory workflow and connectivity and increases flexibility and efficiency of the workforce, helping create digital training resources that support the development of specialists in training
  • Increases our power to share slides and more, making it easier for others to benefit from the fantastic expertise in our profession
  • Sets the scene for the use of artificial intelligence which will help bring advances to pathology services.

OUR WORK ON DIGITAL PATHOLOGY

The College fully supports the adoption of technologies that have the potential to improve patient care and support pathologists, though understand that implementation will require investment. Only a handful of UK trusts are using digital pathology currently, and to grow digital pathology requires infrastructure including IT systems (an estimated figure of £2–4m for a large hospital), staffing and training a cohort of pathologists to be expert in digital pathology This is why we have developed a high level strategy for the implementation of diagnostic digital pathology that provides a framework for considering the implications for diagnostic practice, training and assessment. 

Our strategy 

The College has agreed a high level strategy for the implementation of diagnostic digital pathology that provides the framework for considering the implications for diagnostic practice, training and assessment. This strategy outlines: 

  • the perceived advantages and limitations of digital pathology in diagnosis
  • the need for a coordinated approach to the use of digital pathology in training, examinations and service delivery
  • a proposal for the national coordination of advice and guidance for those using, or intending to develop, digital pathology.

The need for further research and evaluation of the technology is recognised. The work will initially relate to cellular pathology, cytopathology, veterinary pathology, paediatric and perinatal pathology and neuropathology. This does not preclude other specialist areas taking this forward in the future.

Implementing digital pathology

College advice on the technical and practical aspects of implementing digital pathology have been developed by members of the Informatics Advisory Group and the Cellular Pathology SAC. Download the draft guidelines below. 

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