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Inside the Lab Digital and computational pathology, COVID-19, Oncology

The Power of Digital Pathology

When history books reflect on our current time period, what will they see? It’s a challenge to pick just one thing. Cultures shifting. New discoveries being made at a rapid pace. A deeper understanding of the impact our past has on our present. Embracing technology to work smarter, not harder. Perhaps most important, they will see that this era is one that is solidly rooted in digital technology. Through our phones, computers, and social media, we are more connected now than ever before.  

Historians will look back and see this as the time when digital pathology was embraced, with this revolutionary technology changing the way laboratories operate and significantly impacting patient care.

Digital pathology continues to empower pathologists and laboratory professionals to play a more visible and integral role in patient care, as well as in the broader healthcare team. As new technologies become more widely available, global health becomes local health, and the laboratory must be a leader in these endeavors. We are the experts. We have the knowledge. It is up to us to share and spread knowledge that benefits all patients. One of the greatest advantages of digital pathology is that it allows us to bring the laboratory’s expertise to underserved regions, where pathology and laboratory services are often understaffed, and sometimes non-existent.

Almost a decade ago, when we launched our Partners for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide rapid cancer diagnosis, care, and treatment to underserved populations, we knew that telepathology would revolutionize care for these patients, and what’s more, we knew that it was up to us to lead this drastically needed change.

In 2021, a collaborative effort of ASCP, Motic USA, and Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center brought telepathology services to Nigeria, placing medical consultations on difficult cancer cases for millions of patients. We have partnered with Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana, to install digital pathology equipment and train the pathologists at that hospital to use it. 

And after a two-year delay because of COVID-19, ASCP brought telepathology to Haiti, and drastically reduced the turnaround time for histology and immunohistochemistry testing.

The power of digital pathology to change and enhance how the laboratory operates is undeniable. It has made our world smaller, but it has made the impact of the laboratory larger and stronger. The enhanced connectivity promotes a stronger multidisciplinary approach to healthcare as pathologists and laboratory professionals solidify their role as integral members of the care team. As this technology continues to evolve, pathologists and laboratory professionals can have a more prominent role in patient care. By embracing digital pathology, we can foster better collaboration, and continue to provide the high-quality care the laboratory is known for.

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About the Author
E. Blair Holladay

CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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