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All-Time High Support of Digital Pathology Driven by COVID-19

By Dr Martin Stuart

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on healthcare systems across the world as we have struggled to contain the spread of the disease. Universally, routine treatment of patients was put on hold as resources were redirected to support emergency only procedures and COVID-19 patients.

This non-essential surgery ban has reduced anatomic pathologists’ workload by ~80%, and in the US at least, meant a severe financial impact for hospitals. As these restrictions are gradually lifted, hospitals will move quickly to clear the surgical backlog. However, it's estimated that it will still take four weeks of recovery for every week of delayed surgeries. For many pathology departments, tackling the backlog ‘bulge’ will likely mean extending working hours into evenings and weekends, possibly as far out as March 2021.

To help pathologists during these challenging times the FDA invoked Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) regarding the remote use of Digital Pathology for primary diagnosis. Similarly, CAP also announced a relaxation of CLIA regulations allowing pathologists to sign out cases from home.

Like our friends at Inspirata, Mikroscan mobilized early in the outbreak to look at ways in which we could be of assistance. As hospitals closed their doors to all non-essential visitors, it became clear that Mikroscan staff could no longer take systems onsite for demonstrations or evaluations. To that end, we offered the use of our demonstration equipment to any organization in the pathology community that could benefit from our technology at no charge. Fast-forward to today, and our entire inventory of demonstration equipment is deployed in sites across the US healthcare system.

So, what does this tell us? Now more than ever, realizing efficiencies by eliminating unnecessary travel to remote locations through use of technology is of prime importance. Likewise, affording pathologists the flexibility to maximize sign-out capacity from their office is critical, as it enables them to support an increased caseload from home. Whether these requirements are driven by a simple need to do things differently in light of COVID-19, reflect the release of a long-standing latent demand for telepathology previously held in check by outdated government regulations, or something else entirely, is open to conjecture. However, irrespective of the root cause, the Mikroscan take is that the pathology community is now not only overwhelmingly behind digital pathology, but is also proactively applying it to make up for lost ground.

This is a guest post by Dr. Martin Stuart of Mikroscan, an Inspirata approved partner that offers whole slide image scanners for digital pathology.

Mikroscan is an ISO13485 certified, FDA registered Medical Device Company based in Carlsbad, California. Our products are Made in the USA.

Tags: Post-COVID-19, digital pathology, regulation, telepathology