Call for NHS to invest in digital pathology

Philips has called on the NHS to adopt digital pathology technology faster in order to improve cancer services.

The company is one of the leaders in the field, and made its call in response to a Cancer Research UK report with a similar message, which warned that growing need for speedy diagnostics was holding back cancer care.

A report from the charity highlighted the need for innovations such as digital pathology, image measurement and digital collaboration in order to avoid cancer care worsening because of rising numbers of cases.

Digitisation could enable easy access and sharing of information, improved communication and convenience in education,” said Russ Granzow, General Manager of Philips Digital Pathology Solutions. “We believe that digital pathology will help pathologists improve efficiencies and ultimately provide better care.”

Philips’ main pathology solution is its IntelliSite technology – an open platform comprised of an ultra-fast slide scanner, an image management system and web based pathology case viewer. The tech is intended to streamline current pathology processes which often involves microscopic analysis of each slide before physical shipment to expert consults, leading to possible specimen damage and communication delays.

The company highlighted some cases of successful adoption of the technology –  Sheffield and Hull NHS Hospitals have banded together to create the East and South Yorkshire Digital Pathology Network (EASY Path). The solution allows for doctors in separate trusts to analyse and offer their expertise on the same pathology samples, without the need for physical transfer of slides. The result is a faster, more efficient provision of pathology services.

The company has also been working with the University of Bradford to create a ‘Digital Pathology Suite’ to help train Masters students about working in a histopathology lab.

The CRUK report highlights the urgent need to for pathology services to manage rising demand in an increasingly complex diagnostic landscape,” said Dr. Samar Betmouni, director of clinical pathology at Bradford Pathology. “I am encouraged by its recommendation for NHS Trusts to invest in digital pathology infrastructure; explicit recognition that this technology should now move from evaluation to implementation.”

The study by Cancer Research UK says attempts to improve poor diagnosis rates have not been matched by increases in the staff needed to carry out tests.

It warns that the situation has reached a ‘tipping point’, highlighting a 17% increase in patients waiting at least six weeks for tests.

Since Philips separated off its light division in 2014, it has been focusing heavily on digital pathology. In March 2015, Philips partnered with Inspirata to improve cancer pathology workflow in US hospitals before going on to acquire Belfast-based October.

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