According to IBISWorld, there are an estimated 5,391 dermatology businesses in the United States, serving millions of individuals who understand the importance of taking care of their skin. But when it comes to the science behind diagnosing and treating skin conditions, some patients may feel lost, confused, or scared.

Explaining what dermatopathologists do can entail a lot of information for a patient, so let’s examine some simple ways to discuss what dermatopathology is, including education, training, and specialties, as well as the advancement of digital dermatopathology and how it is changing the industry.

What Is Dermatopathology?

Dermatopathology is a specialty in the field of dermatology. The term itself is a combination of dermatology and pathology, meaning the study of both the skin and diseases thereof. Pathologists work in every field of medicine, providing insight on diseases and patient care—in the field of dermatology, this is the responsibility of the dermatopathologist—or “dermpath,” as they are sometimes known in the industry.

All dermatopathologists hold a medical degree in dermatology or pathology, with a subspeciality in dermatopathology. In order to become board certified, doctors must take an exam in both their specialty and subspecialty, as well as participate in developmental exercises in order to retain that certification.

Dermatopathology Services

Rather than interacting directly with patients, dermatopathologists analyze tissue samples that are sent over by doctor’s offices to provide additional information. A nine-year study by the National Library of Medicine found an increasing trend in the complexity of dermatopathology cases after reviewing 8,173 cases at a tertiary care academic center. 

Dermpaths are able to examine not only skin samples but also hair and nail tissue samples, after which they generate a report based on their findings. This is typically done when a dermatologist or primary care physician wants to confirm an initial diagnosis made during a physical examination of the potentially affected area, and requests to have a sample tested by a dermatopathologist for more information.

In studying these samples, dermatopathologists are able to better identify a wide variety of skin conditions, including skin cancer, eczema, and psoriasis. Examining samples under a microscope allows dermatopathologists to see them on a cellular level, providing a closer perspective of a patient’s potential diagnosis.

Traditionally, dermatopathology was done using microscopes, but technological advances have led to the increasing use of digital dermatopathology, in which samples are processed and digitized, providing doctors with more readily available access to a patient’s slides. This process minimizes the time it takes to send a sample, receive the results, and make a diagnosis based on those results, which can be life-saving in more severe cases.

Uses and Benefits of Digital Dermatopathology

Digital dermatopathology helps medical professionals to continue providing patients with the level of care they require while offering clear advantages for your dermatology clinic. These include access to quality clinical care for rural markets, shorter diagnostic times than traditional microscopy, and equivalence to glass slides in terms of quality, with a major discordance rate of only 0.4 percent between whole-slide imaging and microscopy.

Digital dermatopathology can also reduce the time it takes between receiving a slide and generating a report. In some cases, hospitals staff saw an average turnaround time reduced from two weeks to two days. Elsewhere, the streamlined digital process saves the staff an hour a day on manual tasks.

Now that you have some ideas of how to explain what dermatopathology is to your patients, contact the experts at PathologyWatch to help with all your digital dermatopathology needs.