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The transition to digital pathology can be daunting, even (and maybe especially) for the most experienced professionals. Many see digital pathology as inevitable but feel nervous about abandoning the tried-and-true glass slide and microscope. This guide aims to address some common concerns and provide a practical approach. All pathologists are primarily concerned with not making mistakes and being able to complete their work by the end of the day. Digital pathology may seem to threaten both, but after the learning curve is behind you, you may find that both are actually improved.

Understanding Digital Pathology

Of course, digital pathology involves the conversion of traditional glass slides into high-resolution digital images. The rationale for adding the time and expense for this additional step is that these images can be analyzed, stored, and shared electronically, leveraging advanced software tools and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance diagnostic capabilities. The transition to digital pathology offers numerous potential benefits, including improved accuracy, streamlined workflows, optimization of dispersed resources, potentially reduced costs, and enhanced collaboration.

Training Tips for Transitioning to Digital Pathology

1. Start with the Basics

Familiarize yourself with the fundamental components of digital pathology, including slide scanners, image management systems/slide viewers, and analysis software. Envision how these components could integrate with your lab information system and existing workflow. Identify opportunities to defray the costs by reducing slide shipments, consolidating processing and testing, utilizing quality-improving software, and increasing outreach. Understand that many competitors are already in this process and may offer services and information that traditional pathology cannot support.

2. Hands-On Learning

Consider participating in workshops and training sessions offered by national organizations, digital pathology vendors, or your own institution. Hands-on experience is invaluable for building confidence. Use trial versions of digital pathology software to practice scanning, viewing, and analyzing digital slides.

3. Online Courses and Webinars

Enroll in online courses and webinars tailored to digital pathology. These resources often provide comprehensive training, from basic concepts to advanced techniques. Websites like PathPresenter and various professional societies offer courses specifically designed for pathologists transitioning to digital methods.

4. Peer Support and Mentorship

Connect with colleagues who have already made the transition to digital pathology. Their insights and experiences can provide practical advice and reassurance. A mentor may be available within your institution who can guide you through the learning process and offer ongoing support.

5. Vendor Support and Resources

Leverage the support and training resources provided by digital pathology vendors. Many companies offer video tutorials and other educational materials. You can request on-site virtual demonstrations to better understand the equipment and software features, followed by formal training post vendor selection.

6. Join Professional Networks

Engage with professional networks and societies dedicated to digital pathology. These groups often host conferences, workshops, and forums where you can learn from experts and peers. Organizations like the Digital Pathology Association (DPA) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) provide valuable resources and networking opportunities.

7. Get Comfortable with the Tools

Schedule time to regularly practice using digital pathology tools. Start with simple viewing and navigating, gradually moving to more complex analyses as you become more experienced. Review a mix of routine and challenging cases digitally to build your proficiency and confidence. Find examples where low-magnification scanning is vital and where nuclear detail and other high-magnification features will determine the diagnosis. See how various special stains appear and test your ability to evaluate these vs. the glass slides. Some case types (or all cases) may need to be scanned using a 40x objective vs. a 20x objective.

8. Stay Updated

Keep up with the latest developments in digital pathology by reading relevant journals, articles, and blogs. Subscribe to newsletters and follow thought leaders in the field on social media to stay informed about new tools, techniques, and best practices. Attend special events and conferences throughout the year, like the Digital Diagnostic Summit, to learn about new developments.

Overcoming Common Concerns

1. New Technology

Learning new technology is a challenge that is best approached gradually. Start with basic functionalities and progressively explore advanced features as you gain confidence that the platform will serve you and your patients well. When incorporating into your workflow, start with a single case type and perhaps a cooperative clinician who can help give feedback as you progress, gradually adding case types and clinicians/groups. Seek support from your IT department and tech-savvy colleagues with experience with the systems and technology you will use.

2. Time Constraints

Integrate digital pathology training into your daily routine. Start by dedicating just 15-30 minutes each day, which will lead to significant progress over time. Prioritize learning sessions and treat them as an essential part of your professional development. Find the image navigation tools that suit you best: little improvements add up during the course of a day and can make the difference between love and hate of digital pathology.

3. Quality and Accuracy Concerns

Continuous use and practice will improve your comfort with digital pathology. Reviewing cases without the 3rd dimension (tissue thickness/z-plane) is a concern for many, but most are able to transition well, and for those cases where there is a need, you can always view the glass slide. Participation in quality assurance programs and proficiency testing are best practices to validate your skills and the system’s accuracy and ensure ongoing quality. Embrace software that can help review seemingly “negative” cases and help find “needles in a haystack.” This type of software can help you avoid critical mistakes and perhaps even save you time.


Transitioning to digital pathology is a significant step that can enhance your diagnostic capabilities and keep you at the cutting edge of medical practice. By taking a structured approach to learning and leveraging available resources, you can overcome initial apprehensions and successfully integrate digital pathology into your routine.

Your extensive experience as a pathologist is a strong foundation for building these new skills. Embrace the change, seek support when needed, and utilize available resources. The future of pathology is digital, and your journey towards mastering it can start today.

Still trying to decide whether or not you want to implement digital pathology? Read our recent article on the topic.

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