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Digital Pathology Trends and the Impact of COVID-19 on Speed of Adoption

  • AVP LIS Product Development, XIFIN

Digital pathology was introduced decades ago as a way for sharing digital images across laboratories, enabling pathologists to work together on cases and enhance the accuracy of diagnostic techniques. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. adoption of digital pathology lagged behind most other developed countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital pathology in this country for a number of reasons including:

  • The need to deal with higher (as much as 250% increase) case volume
  • Pathologists needing to work from home due to stay at home orders
  • Changes in regulatory requirements and governance

Due to the needs of the pandemic response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed some of its guidelines regarding the approval and validation of digital pathology-related technology. This change was aimed at enabling more flexibility for pathologists to work from home during the public health emergency. Likewise, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) were loosened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to include COVID-19 waivers allowing digital pathology platforms to be used by pathologists from home. Digital pathology is also an important component in dealing with the U.S. pathology market where there is a shrinking number of pathologists at the same time as an explosion of pathology cases.

The benefits of digital pathology are well documented. They include:

  • Driving workflow efficiency
  • Achieving deeper insight into laboratory operations and trends
  • Improving quality control and assurance
  • Providing access to a broader range of expertise
  • Improving pathologist satisfaction

Prior to the pandemic, many U.S. pathologists were hesitant about adopting digital pathology. Most who have used it now say they would never want to go back. This article, “Innovation Changes the Way MSK’s Pathology Team Cares for Patients during COVID-19 Pandemic” shows the impact of the expanded use of digital pathology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Moving a laboratory to digital pathology requires three key technologies:

  1. Image acquisition technology, such as a whole slide image scanner
  2. Enterprise image management software platform, such as Proscia Concentriq® Dx
  3. Computational applications, many of which are now including artificial intelligence (AI)

Choosing the right image management software platform means selecting one that integrates with a comprehensive laboratory information system, such as XIFIN LIS. To maximize the benefits of a move to digital pathology, the image management software platform must be fully integrated with the laboratory workflow. This achieves better integration of pathology into care teams, enabling:

  • Patient-centric healthcare
  • Multidisciplinary team collaboration, across specialties
  • Better treatment planning and tracking
  • Tumor boards and peer reviews
  • More cost-effective second opinions
  • Surgical team collaboration
  • Education

Since the adoption of digital pathology, a major hospital in Spain reported:

21% increase in cases per pathologist
13% increase in operational efficiency

Another provider reported:

$12 Billion in savings over a 5-year period

The need for integration and connectivity often leads lab leaders to believe that they need to make the investment to fully replace their LIS. This however, is not the case. Many times, laboratories can retain their current LIS and supplement it with digital pathology-enabled LIS capabilities to provide the interoperability that is critical for a successful digital pathology program.

To learn more about digital pathology trends, best practices, and benefits, watch this webinar featuring Diana Richards, XIFIN Director of Anatomic Pathology Program Development, Joe Nollar, XIFIN AVP of product development and our guest speaker, Nathan Buchbinder, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Proscia.

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Published by XIFIN
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