Blog
May 10, 2024
5 mins

Five ways digital pathology is transforming healthcare

Enhancing diagnostic efficiency and accuracy

Digital pathology is redefining clinical diagnostics, providing pathologists with powerful tools to analyze and interpret high-resolution digital images for more accurate and efficient diagnoses. 

Telepathology - online pathology services - enables remote consultations, intraoperative assessments, and second opinions, improving access to expert opinions and reducing diagnostic errors. For example, companies like Path Presenter can offer second opinions remotely through online portals, helping institutions expand their remote second opinion programs globally while eliminating the high costs of shipping glass slides.

Infographic: How digital pathology is enhancing pathologists workflows

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential in the digital pathology space. It can streamline the diagnostic process by automating cell counting, grading, and identifying specific cellular structures, allowing pathologists to focus their expertise on more complex cases. When pathologists work together with AI, it expedites diagnosis and facilitates personalized treatment strategies, ultimately improving patient outcomes. This integration of AI into the pathologist workflow makes precision health more accessible to more patients at an earlier stage of their disease.

Beyond automation, AI integration into digital pathology systems can add new functionality. AI algorithms can assist in biomarker screening by detecting subtle patterns or anomalies in tissue samples that may not be immediately apparent to human observers. Tools like Owkin’s MSIntuit® CRC, a CE-marked AI diagnostic that optimizes testing for microsatellite instability (MSI), integrate seamlessly into the digital pathology workflow to support accurate diagnosis at a fraction of the time and cost of existing tests.

Improving education and training

Digital pathology democratizes education and training in pathology, facilitating learners' access to educational resources. Virtual microscopy portals, digital libraries, and online platforms offer immersive learning experiences, empowering pathologists, residents, and students worldwide. 

One example is The Digital Anatomic Pathology Academy (DAPA), a platform for MD pathologists that is free for medical students. DAPA is a whole slide imaging (WSI) educational platform that gives users the experience of viewing and analyzing pathology images.

Accelerating research advancements

In the realm of research, digital pathology is accelerating advancements through computational analysis and AI. Researchers can leverage digital image analysis to precisely quantify pathology data, while machine learning algorithms hold promise for predicting patient outcomes and identifying new biomarkers. 

Centralized repositories and collaborative platforms foster data sharing and interdisciplinary collaboration, propelling research efforts. The Big Picture consortium, for example, unites various digital pathology stakeholders, including pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, IMS, and AI companies like Owkin, to facilitate the development of AI in digital pathology.

Streamlining drug development and clinical trials

Digital pathology can add valuable insight during drug development, facilitating preclinical studies, clinical trials, and biomarker identification. By enabling real-time pathology review, digital pathology speeds up drug development and can aid researchers’ decision-making. Moreover, it holds immense potential for companion diagnostics (CDx), enabling stratification of patient cohorts and treatment personalization.

Digital pathology is also crucial in clinical trials, particularly in oncology. It enables patient stratification and randomization based on pathological parameters, allowing for a more precise evaluation of treatment efficacy. Pathologists can assess pathological complete response, indicating the absence of residual disease after treatment, and combine pathology data with clinical data for a more comprehensive assessment to make informed decisions about patient inclusion in a trial.

Ensuring quality and standardization

Digital pathology can ensure quality and standardization across pathology practice and research. Proficiency testing programs (see this article for an in-depth run-down) and standardized protocols promote consistency and reproducibility, bolstering confidence in diagnostic accuracy. Moreover, digital pathology facilitates remote quality assurance and accreditation processes, enabling pathologists to uphold the highest standards of patient care and safety.

Another interesting application of digital pathology in this space is BlindReview’s platform. This platform leverages digital pathology for blind pathology reviews, providing unbiased legal assessments in medical cases. By presenting pathologists with relevant information in a controlled, unbiased manner, BlindReview ensures that their assessments are objective and free from confirmation bias. This approach enhances the credibility of expert witness testimony and contributes to fairer legal proceedings.

The future looks bright for digital pathology

We’ve only just seen the tip of the iceberg of innovation in healthcare through digital pathology, with far-reaching implications for clinical practice, research, and drug development. By embracing digital tools and fostering collaboration, we can harness the power of digital pathology to drive transformation, improve patient outcomes, and usher in a new era of personalized medicine. 

Owkin is part of this evolution of digital pathology. We are committed to developing robust AI diagnostics to support pathologists in their day-to-day work and improve patient outcomes. By working closely with our extensive academic network, we aim to provide high-performance digital pathology solutions that make precision medicine more accessible to more patients.

Digital pathology 101 book, first edition 2023, Dr Aleksandra Zuraw.

Authors
Hortense Lucas Deslandes
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Five ways digital pathology is transforming healthcare

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