Expanding Our (Digital) Horizons
Digital pathology: a tool to meet the needs of patients worldwide
E. Blair Holladay | | Opinion
The technology used in pathology and laboratory medicine has changed exponentially over the past two decades – and it shows no sign of slowing down. With the rise of personalized medicine, the importance of the outcomes of our work – not just running tests as ordered – increases, and these changes become not only needed, but expected. As pathologists and medical laboratory scientists, we are the cornerstone of healthcare, and not to embrace advances that provide better insight into patient needs ultimately means doing a disservice to the patients we serve.
In recent years, digital pathology has emerged as an essential component of how we practice. By incorporating digital pathology into our processes, efficiency has increased and our views have expanded (in some cases literally, when whole-slide imaging comes into play). Digital pathology lets us move our work beyond our own laboratories and healthcare organizations. It allows us to reach more patients – both in our own backyard and on the other side of the world.
In 2015, digital pathology allowed us the opportunity to reduce the suffering and death that so often follows a cancer diagnosis. ASCP expanded the reach of patient care by launching Partners for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa. This ASCP-led coalition brought much needed leapfrog technology to sub-Saharan Africa, where in-continent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists could now connect with colleagues in America for rapid diagnosis. The ability to impact so many lives through digital technology is something we at ASCP have both appreciated and embraced since that launch – and something we are committed to continuing.
Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to care for patients in resource-limited countries, thanks in large part to digital pathology. Recent equipment donations from our members to laboratories in Zambia (1), for example, have enabled pathologists there to get second opinions from local and international subspecialists, which the country lacks. The direct access to renal, neuro-, and dermatopathologists using digital technologies has helped improve patient care despite the global crisis.
As pathologists and medical laboratory scientists, embracing advances that make us better is not a choice – it is a must. If we want to progress in research and in our profession, developments like digital pathology will help us get there. If we want to make a difference in and improve patient care, it is this forward motion that will save lives.
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- ASCP, “Undaunted by the Pandemic, ASCP Continues to Support Diagnosis of Cancer Patients in Africa” (2020). Available at: bit.ly/34twLxU.