Medical technology continues to evolve, with telepathology becoming a useful tool in anatomical pathological practice. First used for intra-operative consultation in 1989, telepathology’s application has expanded significantly. It is now used for primary diagnosis and a second opinion, with some institutions providing diagnostic services using telepathology.
This tool, for the most part, involves electronic transmission of digital images for the purposes of education and diagnostic consultation. The basic system has a microscope with a digital camera connected to a computer. In simpler terms, it is pathological work in a distance.
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The successful use of this technology needs the ability to repair and maintain the equipment, to provide training, and to produce to histologic slides. It has now become relatively easy to install a system in many pathology departments. The Internet, serving as a source of information and transmission of digital imaging, becomes a helpful infrastructure in allowing global consultation.
According to Mikorscan Technologies, there are different types of telepathology communications for consultation and diagnostic services. A static image is one of them, which functions by capturing digital images at one and transmitting them through email attachments to another site. There is also the dynamic robotic type, which transmits real-time images, allowing the operators to have full control over the images received. The last type is the hybrid telepathology, involving the simultaneous transmission of static and real-time images.
Telepathology that uses virtual slide technology is also growing in popularity, which is hoped to be incorporated into the normal work of pathology service. Medical educators now accept this type of technology for replacing glass slides. This gives it an important role in both graduate and undergraduate medical education, continuing medical education, and proficiency testing. In fact, virtual slide images are now a part of the certifying examination, as developed by the American Board of Pathology.
Even more, telepathology can help address the problem related to a shortage of trained pathologists. This is because a lack of pathologists, especially in the developing world, resulted in delays in diagnosis and misdiagnosis, which negatively affect patient care and survival. The introduction of telepathology can somehow help alleviate the problem. An accurate assessment of the need and resources available, of course, is important before fully implementing the process of telepathology.