Digging their way in: digital pathology systems

| February 20, 2008

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February 2008
Feature Story

Dirk Soenksen, founder and CEO of Aperio Technologies, launched the digital pathology systems and services company out of his garage in 1999. Today, more than 350 of Aperio’s systems are installed in 25 countries. Soenksen has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a master’s in electrical engineering, and an MBA. He’s a former systems development engineer for General Electric and holds several patents for microscope-based diagnostics. He spoke at Aperio’s Pathology Visions Conference in San Diego Oct. 21. An edited version of his talk, “The Evolution of Digital Pathology,” follows.

How do we define digital pathology? Digital pathology is an environment for managing and interpreting pathology information. But this information is unique in the sense that it’s enabled by digitizing a glass slide. The ability to be independent of that glass slide is what enables digital pathology to have the value it does.

Three or four years ago, a digital pathology system comprised a slide scanner and viewing software. It’s a much broader picture now. There are a number of image acquisition modalities: a scanner, robotic microscope, camera on a microscope. That information is managed by an information management system that is central to today’s digital pathology system. In radiology, they call that a PACS, or Picture Archiving and Communication System. Here we simply call it an information management system. And it has to have certain attributes. You have to be able to manage the information securely, to view digital slides remotely, to manage workflow. And you want to be able to store your images. That could be a hospital PACS. And/or you want to be able to communicate with a laboratory information system or other type of lab equipment.

Digital pathology has two core capabilities. One is the ability to consolidate information in a way that you can’t by looking at a glass slide under a microscope. You can consolidate the digital slide, the gross image information from other modalities, in a cockpit—a pathologist cockpit that’s analogous to what your radiology colleagues are using. All the information is at your fingertips. At the same time, you now have new workflow tools—these are the second core capability—that allow you to view digital slides remotely and to conference, archive, and retrieve.

Digital pathology improves the quality and efficiency of pathology services, primarily by getting the right pathologist to look at the right slide. If you can get the right specialist to look at the right slide at the right time, that alleviates the need to ship slides, wait for glass slides, or transport pathologists.

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Category: Digital Pathology News, Whole slide

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