Digital dermatopathology is quickly proving itself superior to traditional practices. In 2017, a study revealed complete clinical concordance between whole-slide imaging and microscopy in 98.8 percent of cases.* With a near-equivalent diagnosis to glass slides, the modern advantages of digital dermatopathology make it a valuable asset for every dermatology clinic.

So what is preventing dermatology clinics from taking advantage of digital imaging? We’ll first discuss some of the barriers to entry preventing dermatology clinics from participating in the benefits of digital pathology. We’ll next discuss why dermatologists should digitize and then show how PathologyWatch can further support the digital transformation of dermatopathology. 

Digital Dermatopathology Barriers to Entry 

The case for whole-slide imaging in dermatopathology is strong; however, clinics acknowledge several hurdles to enabling this digital transformation.

First is the high acquisition cost of digital imaging technology. For example, the price of a state-of-the-art pathology slide scanner can reach $300,000, while the cost to implement a digital pathology system can be in the millions, depending on the size of the health system. 

The average dermatologist operates a modest practice that sends specimens out to larger laboratories. Many of those labs have not integrated digital pathology systems because the solution is cost-prohibitive. 

Second, specialized software and hardware are required to create and access the digital images. Companies like Aperio and Philips offer scanner and software packages, though licensing and implementation costs exceed the budgets of most laboratories and clinics.

Third, the idea of purchasing and maintaining the IT infrastructure to store whole-slide imaging is understandably intimidating. After all, an individual digital pathology image can be a gigabyte or bigger, which is ten times the size of radiology images. In addition to the price of setting up the system, regular technical support would be a necessity.

Fourth is the perception that digital pathology does not provide equivalent quality to glass slides. With 94 percent of patients reporting they completely or mostly trust their physicians, there is a lot of pressure to make certain every diagnosis is accurate.

Why Should Dermatologists Adopt Digital Pathology?

Despite the obstacles, there are many reasons and benefits to transforming a dermatology practice with whole-slide imaging. 

First, there can be instant access to a patient’s current and historical pathology images. By accessing data in a HIPAA-compliant manner, dermatologists and dermatopathologists can review digital images within a moment’s notice. Dr. Keith J. Kaplan claims instant access to digital pathology images “enables more efficient discussions and the ability to give detailed descriptions of findings.”

Second, quality clinical care is no longer limited by geography. The ability to instantly share digital images with specialists around the world means introducing the efficiency and assurance of remote reads, second opinions, and integrated diagnostics.

Third, digital pathology is faster. That leaves more time for viewing and communicating results to patients. In a comparative study by the Journal of Pathology Informatics, digital pathology returned shorter diagnostic times than traditional microscopy. 

Fourth, it’s portable. Instead of handling glass slides, slide images can be accessed with an online image viewer*, including an archive of historical slide images for correlation. The ability to retrieve data anywhere and anytime means dermatologists can save time and better serve their patients.

Finally, it’s equivalent to glass slides in terms of quality. In April 2017, the FDA authorized marketing the first digital pathology system for primary diagnostic use. Since then, studies indicate a major discordance rate of only 0.4 percent between whole-slide imaging and microscopy. Keep in mind that whole-slide imaging also eliminates the degradation of sample issues associated with sharing glass slides.

How does PathologyWatch help?

PatholologyWatch is innovative because it allows dermatologists the ability to harness the benefits of digital pathology by circumventing the barriers to entry. 

First, PathologyWatch bears the cost. Instead of bearing the upfront costs yourself, we carry the burden of hardware, licensing, implementation, labor to digitize, and software maintenance to ensure you have easy and affordable access to view digital slide images. By providing digital pathology to multiple practices, we’re able to use economies of scale to lower specimen costs and pass the savings along to our customers. 

Second, there is no software or storage fee. Incorporating whole-slide imaging into your practice doesn’t necessitate any on-site storage or significant software investments. Because PathologyWatch is web-based, all you need to instantly access, view, and manage your digital slides is a normal internet connection.

Third, you have access to expert dermatopathologists from around the world. As authorities in the pathology industry, they can help interpret your slides with academic-level reads. This opens the door to real-time collaboration to evaluate interpretations without geographic restraints. Plus, your reports will link directly to your patient’s chart in your EMR for easy review and quick follow-up.

Digital pathology offers dermatologists more flexibility, options, and conveniences than traditional microscopy. By examining the barriers between dermatology clinics and whole-slide imaging, exploring the advantages of digital pathology, and demonstrating the benefits of partnering with PathologyWatch, you will find that practices are ready to join the digital age of dermatopathology.

*Only considers breast biopsies, not for dermatopathology specifically.

**Images shown are not intended to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a disease or condition.