Technological innovations continually nurture the process of globalization and the way we deliver healthcare. Telepathology is one such change of delivering remote pathology services and a value-added clinical benefit for better patient care. With its direct effect on healthcare industry, this new paradigm of international telepathology will facilitate cross border collaborations and access to pathology services around the world. Apart from its benefit to the underserved and rural areas in recent years, international teleconsultation has grown and provided a novel source of revenue to pathologists and vendors.
A plethora of such telepathology platforms have been undertaken to serve a multitude of users across the world. One of the earliest was been developed by University of Basel with their global network enabling examination of over 15,000 telepathology cases where static images was the mainstay of image exchange. Virtual International Pathology Network, several telepathology networks established by large academic institutions like University Health Network in Canada, UPMC, MD Anderson in Texas and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston are the more recently established providers of expert consultations with adoption of Whole Slide Imaging (WSI). Many commercial vendors with their business partners practicing international telepathology have also started offering telepathology portables e.g Aperio ePathAccess, DP3 platform. Corista, ProNet. XIFIN are a few leading ones. These contemporary telepathology platforms who have adopted WSI enable remote viewing in one of the two ways: either by remote sharing or uploading of images for expert consultations. The former requires strong cooperation between all sectors of the service providers and the latter may suffer delays due to image transmission. Also, these dynamic telepathology platforms are more expensive, and mandate the use of proprietary hardware/software at the receiving and sending end. All the aforementioned challenges hinder interoperability.
Taking advantage of the shift in technology over the past decade, we at Optra have simplified the mode of delivery and have developed an open access platform, TELEPath® with secure, user based logins which supports secure data transfer, patient confidentiality and data encryption accessible even on mobile cellular devices. This hybrid system combines the elements of static, dynamic and real time collaborations which is hardware agnostic without the need for large digital files and image viewer compatibility for different file formats including Z stacked images for interpreting cytology teleconsultations. Key important factors for delivering quality care across borders like quality assurance measures, monitoring timeliness of reporting with a provision for pertinent clinical information, sustainability, flexibility and a bidirectional communication between parties are the currently offered practical solutions to support these collaborations considering the needs of all key stakeholders.
With the draft bill currently before the US Congress to facilitate telemedicine, the practice of international telepathology has a promise to show a positive impact on global patient care.