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The impact of digital pathology on histology lab staff workload is contingent on various factors, including implementation strategy, automation levels, digital pathology solution type and scope, and staff adaptation to new technologies. While digital pathology aims to enhance efficiency and streamline workflows, it’s crucial to anticipate potential challenges and concerns. In this article, we cover seven essential considerations to keep in mind for histology labs that are implementing a comprehensive digital pathology workflow and whole slide image (WSI) scanner.

Training Requirements

Transitioning to digital pathology will require staff to undergo training on new systems and technologies. Learning to use digital tools and software effectively will take time as staff members adapt to the changes.

Integration Challenges

The biggest challenge of adding digital pathology tech in a lab will be how it impacts and changes the existing workflow. If not done seamlessly, it will create additional work for staff as they navigate technical challenges and workflow adjustments. However, depending on the size and nature of the laboratory, the addition of a scanner can deliver substantial value by significantly reducing the need for slide sorting and delivering physical slides to pathologists.

Physical Space Requirements

Adding a WSI scanner requires a designated physical space with a robust, stable table to prevent any vibrations that could disrupt the scanner’s operation. Moreover, labs should consider implementing battery backup systems to guarantee uninterrupted scanning processes in the event of power outages.

Digital Slide Management

Managing digital data requires efficient organization and storage solutions. Labs will need to determine long-term slide management processes, including whether the slides will be stored locally on hard drives or the cloud and setting protocols for how long they will keep those files. Keep in mind that any storage option will add cost.

Quality Control

Ensuring the quality of digital images is crucial for accurate diagnoses and will require a learning curve. Staff will probably need to perform additional quality control checks during pre-scanning and scanning to ensure the highest quality results. This includes verifying focal points to enhance digital image clarity and rescanning slides if they appear out of focus.

Technology Support

Lab staff may need to provide technical support for digital pathology systems. This includes troubleshooting issues, maintaining hardware and software, and assisting colleagues who may face challenges in adopting the new technology.

Transition Period Challenges

During the transition from traditional to digital pathology, there might be a period of adjustment where both systems coexist. Managing this dual workflow can temporarily increase the workload until the full transition is complete.

It’s important for organizations implementing digital pathology to recognize these potential challenges and proactively address them. Providing comprehensive training, technical support, and effective change management can help mitigate the initial impact on lab staff. Ensuring that the digital solution(s) and scanner(s) selected for the lab are high quality, scalable, and meet the lab’s needs will also help. In the long run, the goal of digital pathology is to enhance efficiency, improve collaboration, and ultimately reduce some of the workload through automation and streamlined processes.

If your lab doesn’t have or wants to change its laboratory information system (LIS) – check out Lumea’s ideal digital pathology solution for those who want a smooth, all-inclusive, affordable, digitally-enabled LIS: BxLink™.

Take it one step further by looking at our pre-analytical tissue-handling devices that improve tissue yield and quality, which can lead to higher cancer detection rates.

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