PATHOLOGY: THE POST-COVID DIRECTION OF TRAVEL

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Since the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, there has been speculation about the long-term implications of the crisis on the way that we work.  Reflections have been across all sectors, but it is interesting to start to make some assessments of how new ways of working will affect pathology labs and in particular the development of digital pathology.

Nothing about digital pathology is new.  For years, there has been fervent debate about the acquisition, management, sharing and interpretation of pathology information – including slides and data – in a digital environment.  True, the technology was initially awkward (high-resolution scanning and viewing equipment is a bare necessity), but it is now generally agreed that the technology exists, and is readily available.

During the Covid19 pandemic, The Royal College of Pathologists issued temporary guidance on the use of digital pathology slides during periods of exceptional service pressure.  Although pathologists were encouraged to undertake a self-directed process of validation (in which glass slides are compared to digital counterparts), it was also accepted that it was safe to report on digital slides where practitioners had appropriately mitigated any risks.

Many are now making the point that such practices might have long-term benefits post-Covid19.  It is not just a question of realising that people can work effectively in a remote capacity.  It is also about other advantages, such as benefitting from expert opinion irrespective of geography; creating an infinite library of data without having to rely on the long-term integrity of slides and also ensuring electronic systems help the whole of the pathology process to work efficiently and effectively.

Of course, digital pathology starts with the production of valid, scannable slides.  Systems need to be in place to maximise quality.  In histology, this might mean working with modern tissue processors that offer advanced levels of efficiency and quality.  In addition, it is wise to set up rigorous electronic systems to track samples throughout the process.  This is where cassette and slide printers come into their own.  By ensuring samples can be accurately tracked and traced, everything is in place for the establishment of accurately labelled digital files.  Many of the conventional histology equipment models, such as microtomes, can now be purchased with scanners which ‘read’ the digital labels on the blocks and not only help with traceability, but can also retain the information necessary to realign blocks to their cutting head position after trimming.  Cassette and slide labelling can now offer advanced graphic options, including barcoding, which ensures the reliability of sample tracking throughout the process.

So, if you are looking to make sure your laboratory is fully equipped for what could be a new way of working in the digital arena, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.  We can offer you full remote demonstrations of our equipment or alternatively provide on-site demonstrations subject to social distancing.  In this, and many other ways, we can help you to run the most efficient laboratory both now and in the future.

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