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Selecting the Right Digital Pathology System – Anil Parwani

Anil Parwani, Director of Pathology Informatics and Digital Pathology at Ohio State University, gives us an insight on selecting the right digital pathology system and the issues with the current systems.

Can you give us three tips to consider when selecting a digital pathology system?

Functionality

The best system is the one which is user-friendly, easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of handholding and maintenance. You should be able to press the button and walk away. It should be like an iPhone – you don’t have to read a big manual to understand it. It should be easy and intuitive.

Space and Intuitive Usage

Secondly, it should fit the space that you’re going to put it in. It should have a small footprint so it is applicable to a range of lab sizes.

User Interface and Image Quality

Finally, the image quality should be clear and easy to read. Digital pathology systems convert a glass slide into a digital image, so pathologists are used to looking at glass slides. When they look at the monitor, they should be able to see the same features that they see on the glass slide on the monitor. The scanner that can convert a glass slide to a digital image most effectively is an attribute that is very important, too, in terms of the feature.

What do you think is the biggest fault in most digital pathology systems?

There are great systems out there which make good images but I think the biggest fault is the inability to be part of a pathologist’s workflow. They are small, they are functional, and they are easy to use, but they are not connected to other systems and are only standalone systems. There are systems out there which are okay; in terms of functionality, they are not the best, but they are more connected. Once the scanners are connected to good systems, the workflow will improve. Currently, this is not happening, therefore, the biggest fault is lack of integration.

What are your predictions for the future of digital pathology systems?

In my view, in the future, all slides will be digitalised. There will be different types of scanners available to the pathologist just like in the chemistry lab or the microbiology, there are many instruments to go and they do different things. We don’t have one size that fits all. In the future, there will be different types of devices for different types of slides, different types of tissue, but it will become very easy to produce high-quality diagnostic images. It will just become a commodity just like we have a printer, we print paper. Every office has a printer now, every office has a fax or a PC.

Once pathologists can digitalise slides easily and the systems are integrated with their workflow, they will start to share images more easily and readily. Once that happens, then they can apply all the tools on top of those images like artificial intelligence and computational pathology.

The process should occur easily in three phases:

  1. Pathologists buy the scanners and create visual images
  2. They easily share their images
  3. Pathologists try to annotate the images and use them to solve complex problems that they face in their everyday work.

Once all slides have been digitalised, this process will occur smoothly.

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