Pathology practices have begun integrating digital pathology tools into their routine workflow. During 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged as a pandemic, causing a global health crisis that significantly affected the world population in several areas, including medical practice, and pathology was no exception.
To summarize our experience in implementing digital pathology for remote primary diagnosis, education, and research during this pandemic.
We surveyed our pathologists (all subspecialized) and trainees to gather information about their use of digital pathology tools before and during the pandemic. Quality assurance and slide distribution data were also examined.
During the pandemic, the widespread use of digital tools in our institution allowed a smooth transition of most clinical and academic activities into remote with no major disruptions. The number of pathologists using whole slide imaging (WSI) for primary diagnosis increased from 20 (62.5%) to 29 (90.6%) of a total of 32 pathologists, excluding renal pathology and hematopathology, during the pandemic. Furthermore, the number of pathologists exclusively using whole slide imaging for primary diagnosis also increased from 2 (6.3%) to 5 (15.6%) during the pandemic. In 35 (100%) survey responses from attending pathologists, 21 (60%) reported using whole slide imaging for remote primary diagnosis following the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services waiver. Of these 21 pathologists, 18 (86%) responded that if allowed, they will continue using whole slide imaging for remote primary diagnosis after the pandemic.
The pandemic served as a catalyst to pathologists adopting a digital workflow into their daily practice and realizing the logistic and technical advantages of such tools.