A Shared Path to Digital Pathology
Social media platforms can pave the way for the inevitable transition
The emergence of different social media platforms has changed not only the way we communicate, but also the way we obtain information. Even academic institutions increasingly recognize the power and influence of social media; its practical utility in medical education and training is continually increasing because social media is innovative, accessible, interactive, and evolving. And among all of the medical specialties that may benefit from this evolution, pathology stands out. Why? Because it is so visual.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are becoming more relevant as sources of supplementary learning materials, especially among medical students and pathology trainees. They’re also gaining prominence as an avenue for continuing medical education among pathology teachers and practicing pathologists, especially with the emergence of Internet-based lectures and webinars, such as PathCast.
In my experience, the diagnostic skills needed to interpret cases viewed on glass slides under a microscope can be slightly different to those needed for cases displayed on computer screen. And yet, digital pathology is rapidly gaining worldwide traction, particularly so in the last few years. Clinicians and surgeons like the idea of viewing pathology reports at their convenience without having to visit the laboratory in person. Patients appreciate access to their own healthcare information via electronic portals. And professional colleagues enjoy the opportunity to consult on cases without relying on the safe transport, storage, and retrieval of fragile glass slides.
It’s clear, then, that the pathologists of the future need to hone these new skills – along with the ability to interact professionally on social media. Why are these two things related? Because despite the increasing acceptance of digital pathology, not every laboratory has the desire and the resources to pursue it at this point. So, if the digital transition is inevitable, how can pathologists whose labs have not yet made the move acquire skills?
To bridge the gap between traditional light microscopy and digital pathology, pathologists can use social media for their own education. There are a lot of Facebook groups for laboratory medicine professionals – surgical pathology, cytopathology, electron microscopy, and every kind of subspecialty and interest under the sun. Pathologists at every career stage can join these groups to share and discuss interesting cases. Can’t find a group for your subject? You can create your own and tailor it to the training program you want to pursue – and you might be surprised at how many people outside your own institution might share your interests!
Facebook is not the only platform where you might find a professional home. Twitter also has a lot of pathologists who are very active in sharing interesting cases, hosting social media-based journal clubs, and linking to educational or even interactive podcasts and webinars. Pathology is, among other things, a practice of photography – and both Twitter and Instagram feature numerous accounts with excellent microscopic photos. In the process of admiring these pictures and attempting the cases our peers share, we are preparing ourselves to adopt digital pathology – and, by learning to collaborate globally, we are coming together as a community.
Overall, I believe that social media can help us pave the way to accepting digital pathology and incorporating it into our professional life. New technologies will always require a change of perspective, but the communities of other pathologists we can interact with on social media can definitely help us look forward to our specialty’s new horizons.
Felipe S. Templo, Jr., is Staff Pathologist and Director of the Combined Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency Training Program, Philippine Heart Center Division of Laboratory Medicine, Manila, The Philippines.