Digital Pathology Is Just Pathology

By Dr. Keith J. Kaplan

As I mentioned about 6 months ago, our practice has adopted the use of digital pathology. While it is “digital”, it is simply, pathology. At least 80% of my caseload is now viewed on a monitor. The work is done with mouse rather than microscope. The cases are images rather than glass slides (admittedly of course the images are derived from glass slides).

My job today, is as it was, 20+ years ago, practicing pathology, not practicing digital pathology. It is another tool in our tool box, just as the microscope is, the Dictaphone (until today), polarizing filters, fluorescence microscopy, electron microscopy and so forth.

It has been said that when we make the change many other specialties have, including radiology and cardiology, we will use our hands less and our eyes more. I think that is a fact in the new practice of pathology, just as when we migrated from smaller frame microscopes to larger frames with tilting heads and better ergonomics.

We have also made the transition from on-site transcription services to voice recognition. While we are perhaps so late to this party, the band has gone home, we are at the party. Our clinicians have been doing this for years. I know very few radiologists, or pathologists for that matter, that haven’t been transcribing into a computer for many years now. More voice commands and less pushing buttons and stepping on pedals.

Years ago, we recorded on microcassettes. My attendings would tell any administrator or pathology colleague, “You are going to have to rip this recorder from my dead, cold hands.” If they were practicing today, there would be a lot of ripping from hands. Or they would have to learn how to type.

Much like they would have to look at a monitor rather than through oculars. I gather this would be even more problematic.

They would say, “If it’s not glass, you can kiss my a**.” There is no way they were going to do digital pathology, but it’s just pathology.


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