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The Future According to Pathologists Themselves

By Emil Mladenov

“It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it, and appropriately act on it.”

--- Stephen Covey

The Wisdom of the Crowd

The Pathologist profession has done a lot of soul searching over the past couple of months, as the world went through unprecedented disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, many great ideas emerged from our successful May 12th virtual fireside chat, which my colleague, Mark Lloyd, so greatly summarized in his post-event recap on this blog. Other thought-provoking insights have also been raised in additional posts on this blog, by guest writers and Inspirata team members alike. 

Unlike most of the contributors on this blog, I am not a Pathologist. Therefore, I thought I'd write a piece not expressing my own perspectives but rather summarizing the proverbial "wisdom of the crowd". In the ensuing paragraphs, I'll outline key findings from the survey* we ran in preparation for our fireside chat.

The Challenges Ahead

More than half of the pathologists who took our survey (54 percent to be precise) expect to face changes in the work environment, which in turn will require changes in their workflows. Forty-seven percent are predicting a sluggish recovery to capacity, which can lead to a backlog of cases for 41 percent of the respondents. A little more than a third of the survey takers expect persistent remote working and/or a phased approach to returning to the workplace. 

Economic Uncertainty Brings Greater Financial Risk

While 40 percent of participants expect financial risk to remain unchanged in the near term, 55 percent are much less optimistic and predict higher financial risk as we return to normal operations compared to pre-pandemic levels. Loss of revenue due to reduced capacity or other operational constraints is the most significant driver of risk, as reported by approximately two-thirds of participants. Cancellations by patients who have lost their medical insurance and collection challenges related to patients' inability to pay are causes for concern for a third of those who expect higher levels of financial risk in the upcoming months.

Early Stages of Planning

Our survey takers have been fairly candid in their assessment of the amount of planning their organizations have done in regards to reopening in a post-COVID-19 world. Only a third either have a plan in place or are in late stages of planning. Another 36 percent, the largest group answering this question, report being in early stages of planning. A somewhat shocking revelation, at least to me, is that a whole lot of respondents (31 percent) have not started planning at all yet. 

Digitization to the Rescue

Those, who are getting closer to a plan, identify increased efficiency (62 percent), continued remote working flexibility (53 percent) and case load balancing (49 percent) as the top measures they are taking to tackle the post-COVID-19 world.

Such measures are going to be difficult to implement in a traditional setting relying only on microscopes and glass slides. Thus, not surprisingly, the focus has shifted more toward digitization. Fifty-four percent of the pathologists who took our survey see an increase in their institution's interest in digital pathology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Insights Matter Only If We Act on Them

As stated in the beginning of my post, my goal here is to share the key takeaways we have gleaned from our recent survey so you can shape your own opinion and course of action. The survey insights may have varying degrees of relevance to each of you, depending on your geographic location and myriad of other external factors that may make your situation unique. Nevertheless, I hope you will incorporate some of those facts into your plan as you prepare yourselves and your organizations for the post-COVID-19 world.

Care to share more details about your post-COVID-19 planning? You can do so by contributing a guest post on this blog.


* The survey was live between April 20th and May 14th, 2020. A total of 233 individuals from 15+ countries completed the full questionnaire. Forty-five percent of respondents came from the United States. Thirty-seven percent came from Europe, and the remaining 18 percent came from the rest of the world.

Tags: Post-COVID-19, pathology, digital pathology, future