Despite the advantages digital pathology brings to the patients and pathologists alike, there are a number of challenges that hinder efficiency and create an overburdened workforce. First there is the deficit of pathologists. According to the College of American Pathologists, in 2010, there were 17,986 active pathologists in the US but by 2025 the College predicts this number will fall to 15,000, while anticipated demand will be over 20,000. This problem is even more prevalent in other geographies. Referencing the Global Healthcare Technology article ‘Pathology’s workforce crisis – impact on acute healthcare in Australia’ in Hong Kong 1 pathologist is available for 26,500 people, in Singapore 1 pathologist for every 48,900 people or in Malaysia 1 pathologist for every 103,000 people. Adding to the global labor constrains the number of new cases is expected to rise by 70% over the next two years. As a result, a fewer number of pathologists will be taking a larger amount of cases.
Another factor within this equation is that the distance and the time involved in transmitting samples, especially internationally is hindering the pathologists to work more globally and more efficiently. To add access to Whole-Slide-Images (WSIs) must be provided to the pathology ecosystem existing of clinical, research, and education each segment having its own needs in the digital pathology workflow.
The combined events of global shortage of pathologists, pathology being a team effort, with pathologists working closely with scientists and laboratory technicians, and the associated ecosystem require a geographically dispersed but connected infrastructure. A cloud storage environment is making it ideal to access WSIs wherever and whenever they are needed.
DELL EMC understands the potential of cloud storage as such offers its Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) object storage platform. ECS is designed as a globally distributed content storage repository enabling the digital pathology workflow becoming geographically independent and pathologists around the world have the ability to join forces or at least increase efficiency.
DELL EMC’s ECS platform allows hospitals or digital pathology laboratories to leverage a cloud storage environment to cut cost, simplify storage management, gain virtually limitless geo-distributed storage capacity, data protection, compliance, and keeps data sovereignty under the control of the healthcare provider.
ECS’s multi-site, active-active architecture, single global namespace, and multi-access methods enables reads and writes of WSI images from any geographic location. When data is distributed across sites, access to data is optimized based on locality and network to better improve performance. As mentioned before the pathology ecosystem exists of multiple segments. ECS accommodates the involved data security and privacy requirements through its multi-tenancy capability. To add, through its multi-access methods the same cloud storage infrastructure will accommodate supplementary applications such as, for instance, analytics, automated image analysis etc. supporting the digital pathology workflow.
In conclusion, through a geographical distributed cloud storage infrastructure digital pathology has the option to become global for effective collaboration on two levels: intra-institutional and inter institutional without adding infrastructure complexity. Creating a global pathology ecosystem on a single infrastructure can help to relieve the impact of pathologist shortages.
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