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Inside the Lab Digital and computational pathology, Quality assurance and quality control, Software and hardware, Technology and innovation

Picture Perfect: Embracing Digital Pathology 2.0

Part one of our six-part "Barriers to Adopting Digital Pathology" series.

Advances in semiconductors and computing technology have transformed the way we think about images. For example, when snapping photos on our mobile phones, we rarely adjust the lens or consider the lighting – we just point and shoot. With high-resolution cameras, increasingly small storage devices, lightning-fast data handling, and mathematics for real-time parsing of data from millions of pixels, the choices we now make tend to focus on how data should be handled to preserve the most valuable information.

In embracing innovation, pathology labs are aggressively evaluating the available options for digital transformation of their reporting work – from the moment a slide is placed on the pathologist’s desk to the final report’s appearance at the treating physician’s office.

The pathologist’s ideal is for every part of the tissue to be visualized in its most pristine clarity, often defined as “in focus.” Recent advancements offer pathologists supreme confidence that the microscope-only days will not be missed, because the next generation of digital pathology is increasingly unaffected by variability in slides, stains, or tissue cuts. Next-generation whole slide imaging (WSI) scanners are smart machines that will make in-line intelligent decisions about scanning and image parameters to output super-high-fidelity WSIs without the need for perfect glass slides. They would also automate the quality control process based on metrics they generate on various aspects of WSI quality, including focus, stitching, banding, color fidelity, and more. This would significantly reduce the burden and cost that would otherwise be involved in filtering out scans that are unusable for practical purposes.

The new norm in digital scanning will augment the WSIs with first-pass content detection. The outcome can be remarkably precise computational advice on WSIs, identifying macro and micro elements of interest – from tuberculosis bacteria to tumor islands. This would herald tremendous efficiency in identifying the most important slides for pathologists’ expert review. 

With these new advancements in digital pathology, labs would have a drastically lowered barrier to adopt a digital workflow that is as simple as snapping a picture-perfect photo with your phone.

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About the Author
Prasanth Perugupalli

Chief Product Officer at Pramana, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

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