How does telepathology work? Telepathology is the term given to practising pathology from a distance, and involves the electronic transfer of digital pathology images for the purposes of diagnosis, education, and research.

Digital pathology is a subfield of pathology where pathologists are able to analyse and diagnose disease through the use of information generated from digitised specimen slides.

History of telepathology

The word was first coined by academic pathologist Dr Ronald S. Weinstein M.D., in 1986 in reference to remote pathology diagnostics services in the form of a dynamic-robot telepathology system. One of the first clinical telepathology services was established in 1989 in Norway by Nordrum and Eide.

Applications of telepathology

Telepathology can be used in a range of settings including consultation, diagnosis, documentation and medical education. It enables rapid access to experts, image sharing and second opinions. Telepathology allows for off-site pathologists to provide their services where it would otherwise be difficult, including immediate consultations with subspecialty pathologists such as renal pathologists (specialising in kidney health), neuropathologists (specialising in the brain and nervous system) and dermatopathologists (specialising in skin conditions).

How telepathology images are transferred?

There are currently three main ways to transfer digital pathology images in telepathology. These consist of the transfer of small static images, real-time imaging, or the transfer of whole slide imaging (WSI). WSI refers to the scanning of conventional glass slides in order to produce digital slides.

Digital pathology technology can also provide anatomical pathologists the opportunity to immediately access frozen sections for diagnosis where they are not able to be present with the physical samples.

Frozen sections are used primarily during surgery where a surgeon removes tissue from the patient, which is then rapidly frozen, sliced very finely and placed on slides for examination under a microscope by an anatomical pathologist. This takes place while the patient is still in the operating theatre. This allows the pathologist to provide vital information to the surgeon, for example whether all of a cancerous tumour has been removed or if the surgeon needs to cut away further malignant tissue.

How telepathology improves patient care?

Telepathology as a remote pathology system, has the power to ensure that patients always have access to pathology experts and therefore rapid and accurate diagnoses. The technology saves lives by providing healthcare practitioners with information that can be used to make life-saving decisions in real-time. The shortening of the timeline for receiving results means that diagnoses can be made earlier and disease states can be prevented from progressing further.

Telepathology also ensures that excellent care is being provided for patients living in remote areas with otherwise poor access to pathologists. With the ability to provide medical advice and consultations from afar, telepathology is changing the possibilities of life-saving medical efforts globally. Thousands of patients across the world from Asia, Europe and North America have benefited from telepathology services.