The Pathologist Workforce Crisis is no secret; there is a seemingly insurmountable discrepancy between the number of pathologists available and the number of those needed in the US (More about this in Cancer, Pathology, and the Law of Supply and Demand by Nathan Buchbinder). Perhaps more disturbing, however, is the inadequate pathology workforce in nations outside the US. With the double burden of disease in Southeast Asia, the need for clinical pathologists is exceeding an all-time high. Emerging countries like India, China, and Malaysia experience complications with both infectious disease and noncommunicable disease. Malaysia and China are among the world’s most pathologist-deprived countries, with pathologist per capita ratios of 1:103,300 and 1:74,000, respectively (For comparison, the US has a ratio of 1:19,000 and is still considered “burdened”).
Other areas of medicine have been confronted with similar labor constraints and subsequently made the move to digital solutions. Radiology, as a specific example, made the transition roughly a decade ago with studies showing reduced demand on overburdened radiologists by roughly 20% over 10 years after implementation. As the medical field slowly evolves to utilize telemedicine, subdivisions of the industry must adopt the practice to more effectively manage demands. Digitization of the pathology industry allows for global collaboration, almost guaranteeing improvements in productivity and effectiveness among clinicians.
Accepting digitization into the pathology industry enables global cooperation among clinicians of the same hospital and with colleagues across borders, creating a pathology ecosystem. This interconnectivity facilitates the “exportation,” of surplus workloads, thus helping pathologists to greater meet local demands and receive consultations from specialists for challenging cases that would otherwise go inadequately diagnosed. Although digitization does not increase the number of pathologists worldwide, it connects existing pathologists to meet the demand of the most burdened regions, helping to address the global pathology shortage.
New to digital pathology? Learn how whole slide imaging is changing the industry here.