I believe that most pathology teaching programs in the U.S. will be feeling a need to launch a digital pathology program soon because pathology house officer and fellow candidates are favoring those programs that are using this new technology. The applicants to these programs understand that they need to begin to master it in order to qualify for positions when they enter the pathology job market. This poses a program for those teaching departments that are not in the process of adopting this technology.
A solution to this dilemma for some departments may be to deploy digital pathology first in their autopsy service. At first glance such a strategy may not make sense. The autopsy services does not generate revenue and there iare few advantages to making the images accompanying an autopsy more portable, at least outside of the specific hospital. Here is a list of why launching a digital pathology program in the autopsy service first is a reasonable option:
- House officers spend their early years in a pathology program performing autopsies so they will gain experience with this new technology soon after entering the program. This enables them to easily adapt to the use of digital pathology in surgical pathology when adopted later.
- In many programs, the autopsy service often does not have a high priority in terms of capital investment or attention. Making it the test bed for digital pathology puts it more in the spotlight and then hopefully the recipient of more attention.
- Because the number of microscopic images associated with autopsies is relatively small compared to the histopathology workload from surgical specimens, a digital pathology program can be launched without a major investment in hardware and software. Such a new technology and program, however, will allow department leadership to establish a relationship with sdigital pathology vendors with an eye toward future contract and become comfortable with it.
- Review of the microscopic images from an autopsy becomes more flexible and can even be accomplished at home by house officers and staff pathologists.
- Autopsy microscopic slides are a suitable test bed for testing image analysis software as it become available without time and medicolegal challenges.
- Gross autopsy images are common can easily be integrated with the microscopic whole slides images to present an easily accessible total case for subsequent review.
- Microscopic whole slide images can be easily integrated into pathology courses for medical school undergraduates as well into the various hospital teaching and QC conferences.