Digitisation will make pathology services much more efficient and responsive to patients’ needs
“People will no longer be chained to microscopes. It will be much easier for pathologists to collaborate with colleagues and to instantly share a link to images with other specialists for their input, potentially bringing expertise from across London, the UK, or even from around the world, to our patients.” Dr Hasan Rizvi, a consultant histopathologist at Barts Health, and clinical lead for the digital pathology programme
Barts Health NHS Trust is rolling out digital pathology technology that will transform its pathology services.
The technology, provided by Sectra, will replace traditional pathology tools such as microscopes with imaging technology. Initially it will be implemented in four hospitals in the trust, serving a total population of three million people. Some of the funding is being provided by the Barts Health charity.
Pathology services currently operate using analogue processes that are often slow and cumbersome, but clinicians will now be able to share images much more easily and quickly. Instead of handling slides manually, pathologists will use Sectra’s picture archiving and communication system (PACS) to see high-resolution images of slides on a screen.
Dr Hasan Rizvi, a consultant histopathologist at Barts Health, and clinical lead for the digital pathology programme, explained the advantages of moving to digital pathology: “Removing analogue workflow processes will remove unnecessary delay in diagnoses, which in the case of acute tumours, could mean the difference between life and death. Staff will no longer need to prepare slides to be sent via courier, where they might be broken or go missing. Scarce specialists will save hours of their time traditionally spent screening slides.”
Collaboration between other pathologists and with members of the multi-disciplinary team will be much more straightforward, Rizvi said: “People will no longer be chained to microscopes. It will be much easier for pathologists to collaborate with colleagues and to instantly share a link to images with other specialists for their input, potentially bringing expertise from across London, the UK, or even from around the world, to our patients.”
There will also be benefits for patients who, he said, “will have access to their pathology images allowing them to easily move between hospitals or seek second opinions without their pathology lagging behind.”
Another advantage of digitisation is that it will simplify the collection of data, providing researchers with a rich seam of clinical information that will ultimately benefit patients. Sarah Jensen, chief information officer at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “This programme is hugely important to connecting the dots for life sciences – a central focus for the future of our health services. Codified data will contribute to developing longitudinal health records for patients. And researchers will be able to inform research and back up findings with links to slides.
“For patients with cancer and other rare diseases, this is a high priority, allowing us to bring together pockets of clinical information, to build the infrastructure needed for genomic sequencing and to build a data core that includes pathology.”
The implementation is also expected to help with recruitment and retention. Digitisation will allow professionals to carry out more work from home, helping to retain professionals who might be approaching retirement, for example.