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Biomedical Optics & Medical Imaging

Keynote presentation: Pathology -- Why the Future of Medicine's Gold Standard is to Go Digital

Presented at SPIE Medical Imaging 2012 by Michael Becich

1 March 2012, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201202.14

Michael BecichPathology is one of the oldest specialties of medicine, and the investigations on the underlying causes of disease can be traced back to the XI century. The first optical microscope was only created centuries later, around 1590, but it took almost another 100 years before it became the centerpiece for the study of disease processes. Today, the optical microscope still reigns supreme in the clinical practice, and the diagnoses made under its lenses are considered the "gold standard" in medicine. However, the demands facing pathologists are greater than ever, with an aging population, a growing number of diagnostic procedures available to clinicians, and a litigation-prone society. How can pathologists improve their processes, reduce variability and safeguard themselves (by consulting on difficult cases) if they still have to rely on glass slides? This talk discusses pathology's migration toward a digital environment: why it is necessary, unavoidable, and may be quite painful, if care is not taken in training personnel not to see the digital microscope as a "digital" version of the optical microscope. We discuss the many new opportunities that will be opened up by the conversion to a digital environment, such as teleconsulting; digital slide storage; and development of computer-aided diagnostic systems. We also review the many challenges that lie ahead: image storage, retrieval and transmission; appropriate uses of the digital microscope; and securing FDA approval for Whole Slide Imaging devices.

Michael Becich, MD, PhD, is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is jointly appointed in Pathology, Information Sciences/Telecommunications and Clinical/Translational Research. He is Associate Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute as well as the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. His research interests are focused on the interface between clinical informatics and bioinformatics. His research is funded by the CDC, DOC, NCI, NCRR, NLM and TATRC and includes clinical phenotyping of patients for genome wide association studies/next generation sequencing, tissue banking informatics, clinical informatics and bioinformatics with a special emphasis on data sharing.