In a Specialised Commissioning Journal featured article, “Digital Pathology: A Diagnostic Revolution”, Dr Samar Betmouni explains how digital pathology can address the challenges of increasing demand for diagnostic histopathology: the branch of pathology that is concerned with diagnosis of disease in tissue and cells.
She describes the NHS context that is driving the quest to deliver better services in the faces of rising demands for diagnostic pathology tests (to diagnose and so help in the treatment of cancer and other diseases). This increase in demand for tests runs in parallel with a reduction in workforce capacity, and a national strategy to reduce diagnostic times in an effort to achieve early cancer diagnosis and improved survival targets. Dr Betmouni discusses the potential for technology to address these challenges: in particular how digital pathology solutions can impact on reducing the time it takes to make a diagnosis, improve productivity within pathology labs and provide resources to support research and further improve our understanding of disease.
The article provides an overview of the uptake of digital pathology in the NHS and an insight into the likely deployment of this technology in the coming years. Dr Betmouni highlights the importance of learning from the experience of early digital pathology adopters; and provides an international perspective on how other pathology services have approached the large scale implementation of this technology in diagnostic practice. The business case for digital pathology is discussed; Dr Betmouni emphasising the importance of considering this holistically – taking into account the whole diagnostic pathway: rather than having a limited focus on the benefits to pathology departments; she supports a business case approach that is extended to examine the impact of digital pathology on patients and service users. Importantly, Dr Betmouni identifies that implementation of digital pathology is a “team effort” requiring the expertise of many: Biomedical Scientists, Pathologists, IT specialists – all supported by effective project management. Furthermore, Dr Betmouni believes that achieving the potential of digital pathology is a multi-disciplinary endeavour which brings together clinicians, computer scientists, bioinformaticians, cancer biologists (amongst others) and industry to develop the next diagnostic intervention: Artificial Intelligence.
This is indeed an exciting time to be involved in pathology- a diagnostic revolution is underway where clinical need facilitates technological advances which will herald new models of diagnostic service delivery.