PBS Transcript of recent story on digital pathology
Thursday, July 10, 2008
SUSIE GHARIB: In health care, digital X-rays and CT-scans have become commonplace. But the field of pathology is just beginning to enter the digital era. As Jeff Yastine reports in tonight’s ‘Bill of Health," it’s a change that promises faster diagnoses for patients and potential cost- savings for hospitals.
JEFF YASTINE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: For more than a century, this is how pathologists, specialists in identifying disease through the study of human tissue, do their jobs: a high-powered microscope, and glass slides embedded with tiny slices of tissue samples. But some pathologists, like Dr. Azorides Morales, are beginning to embrace new digital pathology tools. The technology lets them rapidly scan and digitize dozens of glass slides at a time, then a pathologist can use a computer screen just like a microscope.
DR. AZORIDES MORALES, PROFESSOR OF PATHOLOGY: I will have exactly what is in this slide. And then I could focus on a specific area there and bring that up and move the slide around. So I say, OK, I want to look at this in higher magnification. And there we are.
YASTINE: Why is that a big deal? Well, until now, pathology has meant shipping lots of glass slides back and forth between pathology offices. Now these same images can be streamed over the Internet, making them instantly available to any consulting pathologist. Dr. Jared Schwartz, president of the College of American Pathologists, says digital pathology means faster diagnoses and potentially lower health care costs.
DR. JARED SCHWARTZ, PRESIDENT, COLLEGE OF AMERICAN PATHOLOGISTS: The faster you can get an accurate diagnosis and get the appropriate therapy, and the definitive therapy, you’re going to lower the costs and the potential morbidity or mortality with an associated patient. I mean, if you have to have one surgical procedure, and you can get the diagnosis, that’s far better than having to have two procedures.
YASTINE: Experts say the ability to electronically scan a slide is one of the keys to digital pathology. A few years ago, such scans took minutes to complete, now they take seconds. A dramatic drop in the cost of digitally storing such images is also a factor, says Gene Cartwright, CEO of Omnyx, a joint venture between GE Healthcare and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
GENE CARTWRIGHT, CEO, OMNYX: The size of an image we’re talking about digitizing here is about 10,000 megabytes, or 10 gigabytes for every glass slide. And so the technological challenge of scanning that image very quickly in a factory like environment, storing that image, streaming it over the Internet, and navigating around that image is a big, big challenge and one that hasn’t really been possible until very recently.
YASTINE: The industry leader in sales of digital pathology gear is a California company, Aperio. But it and many others see GE’s investment in Omnyx as a validation of the rapid growth expected for digital pathology. And with the average hospital pathology lab cranking out as many as 200,000 slides a year, there’s a lot of room for growth in sales as hospitals begin to scan and digitize all of that medical information. Jeff Yastine, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, "Bill of Health."