Artificial intelligence and the digital world is invading many job sites around the world, in some cases displacing jobs and in other cases creating new ones. As it infiltrates the world of pathology, some may question: if a machine can do what I can, will I still be needed? The answer is yes. Digital pathology and AI are not at all likely to replace pathologists and other medical workers. Rather, it is and will increasingly become an invaluable tool that provides tangible benefits for pathologists in their daily workflow.
There are Fewer Pathologists and a Greater Need
A recent study analyzed trends in the US and Canadian pathologist workforce between 2007 and 2017 and discovered that the percentage of pathologists decreased by nearly 18 percent. That was before COVID which prompted many more to retire early. They predict further deficits over the next two decades which, in combination with an aging population, will result in a continual increase in pathologists’ workloads.
Digital Pathology and AI are Invaluable Resources
Digital pathology and developing AI tools will help enable pathologists to become more efficient, less likely to make errors, and able to focus on the more interesting aspects of their practice. They can leave the more tedious tasks to computers. As a result, the higher productivity required to handle the increasing demand can be safely achieved, and pathologists can keep their workday at a reasonable length. What’s more, digital pathology allows greater flexiblility and remote work.
Finally, pathologists understand the limits of AI to date, such as being able to discern 2-dimensional representations of 3-dimensional objects, identify tangential sections of structures, or distinguish tumor invasion from a variety of mimics. While improvements will undoubtedly continue, there is little risk in the near- and mid-term for AI to replace pathologists’ expertise.
Here are 8 Benefits of Using Digital Pathology
Some valuable digital pathology tools and benefits (included in certain platforms):
- Improved ergonomics
- Faster turn-around time
- Greater flexibility of workplace location
- AI assistance
- Immediate access to second opinions
- Quicker and more accurate tumor measurements
- Access to a vast digital archives which significantly decreases time searching for individual case slides
- Greater flexibility in distributing workload