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Bradford academic demonstrates the scope of digital pathology in the House of Commons


Dr Samar Betmouni, Director of Clinical Pathology at the University's Faculty of Life Sciences, is participating in the Royal College of Pathologists exhibition (26th-29th October 2015) at the House of Commons to raise awareness amongst parliamentarians of the contribution of pathology to healthcare.

The exhibition’s aim is to highlight the critical role that pathology plays in disease detection, including cancer diagnosis. said; “This is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of pathology services in healthcare. We plan to demonstrate the work at the Faculty of Life Sciences, in partnership with Philips Digital Pathology Solutions, to develop diagnostic digital pathology and promote its adoption in healthcare to improve service delivery for patients”.

The exhibition hosts a demonstration of how tissue samples taken during a surgical procedure are processed in a histopathology laboratory to produce thin sections of stained tissue mounted on glass slides for viewing under a microscope to make a diagnosis e.g. of cancer. A microscope is available for participants to have a hands-on experience of examining tissue sections under a microscope.

Dr Betmouni and her colleagues from Philips, Mr Stuart Shand and Mr Dirk Verhagen will demonstrate the scope of digital pathology to potentially improve the delivery of diagnostic services. Digital pathology is the process of viewing digital images of a tissue specimen on a computer monitor using specialist image viewing software. The digital images are created from glass slides, normally viewed under a microscope, by using a specialized, high-resolution slide scanner. The digital images are stored on servers, which can be accessed remotely usually via a web-based platform, enabling remote consultation and collaboration. The digital images can be archived and retrieved as needed; promoting the sharing of material for diagnosis, education and research.

A live demonstration of a digital pathology consultation follows, showing participants how diagnosis may be reached and illustrating the relative ease of obtaining a remote second opinion on difficult cases.

Dr Betmouni commented: “Digitizing images facilitates collaboration across sites and could potentially reduce costs. This improved cooperation also allows access to specialists, engendering multidisciplinary discussions to share expertise and knowledge and will act as a useful training tool. The aim being to come to a correct and more timely diagnosis for the patients.”

Following the first day of the exhibition Dr Betmouni said: “The Royal College of Pathologists has succeeded in organising an excellent forum for pathologists to interact with parliamentarians and policy makers. I am encouraged by the level of engagement we have encountered.”

Having demonstrated several live digital pathology consultations to members of the public and Parliamentarians, Mr Shand concluded: “People have been struck by how readily second opinions can be sought using this technology. Healthcare’s transformation to a digital workflow is one that can drive efficiencies and improved outcomes across the health continuum. The application of digitization to pathology can enable faster diagnoses and a whole new way of working for current and next-generation workforce.”

This is a timely exhibition. An ageing population with an associated increase in chronic disease will result in an increased need for diagnostic services. The advent of personalised medicine and advances in genomics will place further demands on pathology services to deliver an increased repertoire of diagnostic tests*. There is therefore a need for modern pathology labs to increase throughput and efficiency while maintaining or improving quality, particularly in the diagnosis of cancer. The increasing demands on pathology will require that we explore judicious use of technology and new models of service delivery to meet the challenges we face.