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Inside the Lab Digital and computational pathology, Profession

Tech to the Rescue

Credit: Proscia

What do you believe is causing burnout among pathologists?

Pathology is plagued by an intensifying supply and demand challenge, which has been steadily worsening since the early 2000s. Between 2007 and 2017, the pathologist population decreased by 17.5 percent (1). Recent statistics show that the number of open roles for pathologists is near an all-time high (2); meanwhile, the global cancer burden continues to increase. The number of new cases per year in the United States is expected to cross 2 million for the first time in 2024 (3).

Unfortunately, burnout among pathologists isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2021, 35 percent of pathologists reported feeling overworked (4), which increased to 41 percent in 2023 (5). It’s undeniable that the supply and demand challenge will continue to take a toll on pathologists’ work-life balance until it is addressed. Quite simply, it leaves pathologists working long hours while maintaining the commitment to quality that they pride themselves on.

Advancements in precision medicine may also contribute to burnout. We’re already seeing the impact from these developments in patient care and in enabling pathologists to practice at the top of their license. There’s no doubt these advancements should continue to be introduced in the clinic, but we must also acknowledge the increased diagnostic complexity and added steps to the pathologist’s workflow, such as running additional tests.

What can department heads do to prevent/ease burnout?

It’s time for department heads to transform their practices. If the answer lay in reorganizing existing resources and making slight modifications to current processes, we would have seen burnout start to ease by now. However, innovations like digital pathology, which are modernizing operations, have been proven to deliver many benefits that can combat burnout and set laboratories up for success.

What benefits does digital pathology bring to the lab and how can this help with burnout?

One of the most cited impacts of “going digital” is efficiency gains, which are crucial to overcoming the burnout burden. These largely result from overcoming the inefficiencies associated with glass slides. For example, pathologists can share images for collaboration and consultation in just a few clicks to quickly receive a second opinion, which could also help to improve diagnostic confidence – another commonly cited benefit of digital pathology – and give pathologists added peace of mind.

Digital pathology also provides flexibility to pathologists, allowing for remote working since they no longer need physical access to glass slides. By extension, going digital can help address staffing challenges. Laboratories can hire from further afield and attract the younger generation that often wants to work with the latest innovations. Collectively, these benefits are also likely to improve job satisfaction.

How could recent advancements in AI-powered pathology ease pressure on individuals?

There are two broad categories of AI applications that we see in practice today, both of which are helping to reduce burnout.

Firstly, AI applications are unlocking insights that have gone unseen by the human eye. For example, companion diagnostics like PD-L1 quantification algorithms can consistently and accurately identify biomarkers to give pathologists information for delivering faster, high-quality diagnosis increasingly tied to precision therapies. With these applications, pathologists can free up time and gain peace of mind.

The second category of AI applications reduces time-consuming tasks, such as quality control (QC), to drive operational efficiencies. An AI-powered QC solution can complete the labor-intensive QC process up to six times faster than manual review alone – allowing pathologists to spend less time waiting for rescans and focus their attention on more complex elements of their role. 

Are you hopeful that we will overcome burnout in pathology labs?

As real as the burnout situation is, I’m optimistic that it can improve. Digital pathology adoption is now being pushed at the national level in places like the UK, where the government recently agreed to recommendations to roll it out across the National Health System. In parallel, more laboratories are going digital. This momentum will generate added evidence on the impact of digital pathology on reducing burnout and overcoming the challenges that laboratories face more generally. In doing so, it will almost certainly drive even more laboratories to adopt a digital approach.

Nathan Buchbinder is Chief Strategy Officer at Proscia.

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  1. DM Metter et al., JAMA Netw Open (2019). PMID: 31150073.
  2. Proscia (2014). Available at: 
  3. American Cancer Society (2024). Available at: 
  4. Medscape (2022). Available at: 
  5. Becker’s Hospital Review (2024). Available at: 
About the Author
Jessica Allerton

Deputy Editor, The Pathologist

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