COVID-19 has caught the world by surprise.
The notion of a pandemic used to sound quite irrelevant to many of us just a few months ago, perhaps because we live in such a technologically advanced world. Yet, fast forward to present time and we all understand now how a tiny virus can cost hundreds of thousands of lives, bring even the strongest economies to a halt, and confine us at home.
A time of crisis could also be a time of opportunity for improvement.
The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a worldwide effort to find ways to diagnose, treat and control the virus. The world is actively exploring and developing technology to find remedies and, hopefully, develop an effective vaccine.
Regulators across the world are contributing to this quest for improvement in significant ways too. On April 24th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new policy to expand the availability of devices for remote reviewing and reporting of scanned digital images of pathology slides.
I believe COVID-19 has served as a wake-up call to digital health in general, but also computational pathology in particular. Digitization is not a thing of the future any more. It is not a nice-to-have feature that will slowly penetrate the medical world. It is happening now! Digital pathology and AI have become must-haves embraced by pharma companies, hospitals, laboratories and other healthcare organizations.
Technology providers are now more than ever required to look for ways to assist the medical community in providing fast and effective cures to patients.
The field of pathology research and diagnostics has already been going through a fascinating evolution in the last few years. Digitization of glass slides opened the field to fast data transfer using advanced image management systems allowing previously impossible real-time remote consulting. The ability to seek second opinion remotely proved crucial during COVID-19.
Having whole slide images in a digital format also allows the application of advanced algorithms. A few years ago, while my company was getting started in the field, a common question followed us everywhere we went. Will AI replace pathologists? Our answer at that time was a resounding no. Rather than replacing pathologists, AI can assist them in making critical, life-saving decisions faster, more consistently and more accurately.
We are glad to see that many pathologists have embraced that way of thinking and are starting to use tools like ours for drug development, disease research and diagnostics. AI solutions provide a fast, accurate and consistent platform to solve critical problems, such as cell detection and quantification, object localization and classification and region segmentation.
Instead of diseases and pandemics, it is advanced digital technology that should go viral in healthcare.
The collaboration between pathology experts and the AI support system is key to bringing cures and vaccines as fast as the world expects them. Keep safe and healthy!
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