Digital is Inevitable. What Now?

Pathology is not immune to the powers of digital; let’s look at parallels outside the medical industry…

(Originally posted at The Pathologist)

By Patrick Myles, CEO, Huron Digital Pathology

It’s amazing to think about how digital imaging technology has transformed just about every part of our lives. Want to watch an Oscar-winning film in 4K resolution? Just fire up Netflix and grab the popcorn. Need a 360-degree view of your car’s surroundings so you can safely park at the grocery store? It’s right there on your navigation screen. Have a desire to take magnificent photos that can be blown up and displayed on huge billboards in major cities around the world? Press a button on your iPhone (last year’s model will do just fine).

This begs the question, are there any areas of our lives that won’t be disrupted by digital technology? If you read various opinion pieces about digital pathology, you may walk away thinking that the practice of pathology is somehow structurally immune to the powers of digital. Is this true, or is the march towards digital inevitable?

Perhaps the strongest argument about pathology’s digital future, both for and against, is the radiology analogy. It goes like this: if you think that pathology will go digital, you will argue that digital imaging is everywhere in radiology, so it’s inevitable for pathology. If you are in the opposite camp, you will agree that digital radiology replaces costly and messy film; however, pathology slides aren’t going away, and their digitization is complex. Plus, digital radiology images are small and manageable, whereas digital pathology images are large and unwieldy. These lines of argument quickly lead to a dead end, with entrenched parties on both sides.

How about this: let’s step out of our comfort zone for a moment and look at a non-medical industry that has a strong professional component and has gone through a digital imaging transformation. Perhaps there may be some insights there . . .