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What is digital pathology, and how is it helping the Healthcare sector realise the full potential of its data?


The healthcare sector generates higher volumes of patient data on a daily basis than ever before - all of which conceals a rich vein of opportunities to optimise efficiency and enhance patient care. The demand for more efficient diagnosis and more effective management of data has naturally led to the rise of digital pathology and - in turn - the Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) that underpin these initiatives.

What is digital pathology?

In simple terms, digital pathology is the practice of digitising specimen slides in order to enable more effective management of healthcare data. Once all glass slides related to a specific case have been properly digitised and stored in the Cloud, they can be shared, viewed, monitored, and analysed by any authorised users, regardless of where they are connecting from, whether that's onsite, remotely, or even via a 'smart' ambulance.

This allows for more effective cross-site collaboration between healthcare professionals, helping to reduce the typical time-to-diagnosis - often by several weeks - while allowing for more efficient use of resources, effective protection against the latest cyber threats, and the implementation of innovative, multi-Cloud strategies that will allow cumbersome legacy systems to be phased out. Furthermore, through virtualisation, patients' critical data becomes non-perishable, helping resolve many of the challenges of long-term storage, avoiding the departmental siloing that can often occur when physical slides must be retained.

Of course, accessing all the benefits depends on having the right technological foundation in place. That's where PACS solutions come in.

What is PACS, and why is it a critical part of the Healthcare sector's digital journey?

PACS offers a fully integrated, hyper-converged solution for the long-term storage, management, and analysis of digital slides, incorporating disaster recovery and backup, AI, IoT and machine learning, and both Fast Tier 1 and Medium Tier 2 storage. By eliminating the need for onsite storage and storing images in the Cloud, PACS provides a robust foundation for cross-site digital pathology, while simultaneously guaranteeing the safety and security of patients' critical data.

Exponential-e offers PACS as a fully managed solution, supported by our own London-based Innovation Centre, in order to optimise time-to-value and ensure Healthcare organisations across the UK can begin making full use of these solutions to optimise their workflows with minimal disruption to their day-to-day operations.

A new type of automation, to support the expertise of healthcare professionals

As with many sectors, Healthcare is still in the nascent stages of its exploration of automation, and how the latest developments in AI, IoT, and machine learning can help it deliver exceptional patient outcomes, without compromising its singular compliance and data protection obligations. As a longstanding technology partner for many organisations across the UK's Healthcare sector and having supported the development of telemedicine and healthcare connectivity throughout 2020 and beyond, Exponential-e is keen to play an active part in this journey. To this end, we have formed a strategic partnership with the National Pathology Image Co-operative (NPIC), in order to drive the development of AI across the entire sector - the latest step in our ongoing work around digtal transformation with Leeds Teaching Hospital.

Utilising our own PACS solutions in combination with Dell's object storage will support the deployment of cutting-edge digital pathology scanners at 30 hospitals across the country. This is expected to generate at least 2.4 million images per year - all of which can be used to deliver faster, more accurate diagnoses and - ultimately - a higher standard of patient care.

Exponential-e's partnership with NPIC is a perfect showcase for the role technology will play across the healthcare sector in the years ahead, with new digital innovations emerging in direct response to the needs of patients. There's still much work to be done, but we look forward to the journey ahead!

To find out more about Exponential-e's PACS solutions and our work supporting the UK Healthcare sector's digital journey, click here.

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