Home >> Insights  >>

Digital Pathology- Doctor‘s Next Generation Tool To Better Refine Their Practice

by Mark C. Lloyd, Executive Vice President and Founder at Inspirata Inc December-2015

Founded in 2014, Inspirata provides a comprehensive cancer diagnostics solution which includes workflow automation and computer-aided cancer detection and diagnostic tools. Inspirata’s solution also includes a suite of algorithms to extract relevant image-based information from digitized histology specimens for use as supplemental aids to assist pathologists with diagnoses and to aid in the prediction of disease progression and therapeutic responses.

Cancer kills. Grandparents, mothers, sons, cousins, none are discriminated by age, gender, socio-economic standing, location, ethnicity or other factors. Unfortunately, almost everyone knows someone who is fighting cancer or who have fought it. However, cancer care is not so evenly distributed. Healthcare often favors those who are educated about their health and can afford to travel to leading hospitals. 

Cancer diagnostics are susceptible to these same pressures. While some tests are expensive, other tests may only be done in a specialized center which is not optimal. For the most part, every patient’s cancer battle begins with their diagnosis. This is their best possibility to get a rapid and accurate understanding of their illness and begin to treat their disease with the right therapy. 

Innovative companies and researchers have identified the need to democratize cancer diagnostics to transform the standard ways in which patients could first get their diagnosis from anywhere in India.  Digital pathology is a method of creating a digital record of a patient’s microscope slides which are read by pathologists to diagnose disease. Today, many patients receive a diagnosis and then are tasked by carting these slides with them in order to receive a second opinion. Second opinions are critical in ensuring an accurate diagnosis, as this process can take weeks and a high expense to the patient; an expense which is not only monetary but also emotionally taxing and time consuming. 

Digital Pathology Gains

The foremost advantage of digital pathology is that patients and their doctors can share digital images instantly to receive a second opinion from specialists anywhere in the world. This is not only a massive advantage in receiving the most accurate diagnosis possible, but also the most rapid diagnosis. However, the benefits do not only assist the patients. Doctors can also learn a great deal when rare or unusual cases are shared with other experts. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the benefits of digital pathology. Transforming diagnostics from an analogue art and science to a digital one facilitates doctor’s ability to quantify specific metrics of a cancer’s aggressive nature. This opens up the pathologist’s toolbox to move from estimation of a diagnosis to a reliable and repeatable finding. Said another way, the ability to measure specific aspects of cancer precisely give doctors more confidence in their diagnosis.

Furthermore, digital images may also be evaluated by complex computer algorithms. These are in no way intended on replacing the doctors. In fact, the craft of pathology is exquisitely complex and requires knowledge and context which computer algorithms are not ever likely to match.  But there are ways in which a computer can take the more mundane tasks of searching for small pockets of cells among millions of normal cells and identify suspicious lesions. This allows the pathologist an opportunity to minimize their search time and maximize the time they spend doing what they are trained for- diagnosing disease. Computers can count and measure reliably. This is a task that many pathologists either spend an extraordinary amount of time performing, or even worse, quickly estimating. Digital pathology, thus, becomes the doctor’s next generation set of tools to better refine their practice. 

Create Solutions in Indian for Indians

For all of the challenges of cancer diagnoses in India and all of the advantages of digital pathology, it is not reasonable to think that a Western system of instrumentation and software will immediately be useful in the economy and environment of Indian medicine. It is important for farsighted companies to adopt a philosophy of creating solutions in India for Indians. In the context of Indian medicine, it is critical to adopt payment models and solutions which are priced for and satisfy the needs of the most impoverished patients, available to the smallest villages and valuable to the doctors who render the diagnoses. 

Digital pathology is well poised to be available despite geographic constraints and priced to accommodate the masses of patients in need. It can help reduce the time for diagnosis and allow pathologists to share the reports instantly with their colleagues domestically or around the world.  Digital pathology has the opportunity to democratize the diagnosis of cancer; a need that all of India is crying out for; a need that most futuristic companies, hospitals and other care centers are looking forward to. That is the promise of digital pathology- and with it a better world.