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In addition to storing paraffin blocks and glass slides, digital pathology use requires digital whole slide image (WSI) management and storage. While initially disruptive to traditional workflows, digital pathology adoption has been increasing for a variety of reasons, including streamlined workflow in the lab, immediate access to remote pathologists for primary and secondary interpretations, reduced transportation costs, easy access to historical cases, improved quality via AI algorithms and unique viewing/annotation technologies.

Here is an overview of how digital pathology storage works:

  1. Slide Scanning

Pathology labs create glass slides from tissue samples and then scan them with a WSI scanner, converting the glass slides into high-resolution digital images.

  1. Digital Slide Management

Digital slide images are stored in an image management system (IMS) that organizes and distributes cases to pathologists. Metadata associated with each image, such as patient information, slide identifiers, and often diagnostic information, are included for organization and easy retrieval.

  1. Storage Infrastructure

Digital pathology storage systems require a robust infrastructure due to the large file sizes associated with high-resolution images (1-5GB compressed or up to 15-150GB uncompressed, depending on the amount of tissue on a slide and the magnification used at scanning). Storage solutions may include local servers, cloud storage, or a combination of both, depending on the scale and requirements of the pathology lab. Lumea, for example, offers both scalable cloud-based and on-premise secure storage.

  1. Data Backup and Redundancy

Regular backups and redundancy measures must be implemented to ensure data integrity and availability. Backup frequency and type of redundancy strategies depend on each lab’s specific storage requirements and institutional policies.

  1. Access and Collaboration

Authorized personnel, including pathologists and other healthcare professionals, can access digital slide images remotely for primary diagnosis, consultation, research, and educational purposes. There are also options to integrate collaboration tools that help facilitate discussions and knowledge-sharing among pathologists.

  1. Retention Policies

The amount of time digital slide images need to be stored may vary based on regulatory requirements, institutional policies, and the nature of the cases. Some jurisdictions may have specific guidelines regarding the retention of medical records, including digital pathology images. Some labs will archive slide images for a specified amount of time, after which they will either be deleted or moved to long-term storage. Since glass slides can always be rescanned, storing digital images may seem redundant; however, others may prefer to retain the exact image used when making the diagnosis for medicolegal purposes.

  1. Long-Term Storage Considerations

As technology evolves, so will the reconsideration of long-term storage and data migration policies to optimize the safety, accessibility, and compatibility of archived digital pathology images. Migration strategies may involve transferring data to newer storage technologies or formats.

Healthcare institutions must establish clear policies and adhere to regulatory guidelines regarding the retention and disposal of digital pathology images. Factors such as legal and ethical considerations and technological advancements will influence decisions on how long to keep these images. Consult with legal and healthcare professionals to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and best practices.

Want to know more? Chat with one of our digital pathology experts today. Our consultants can walk you through each step, from concept to successful digital pathology implementation.

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