Health Technologies

AI and the pathology revolution

As cancer rates increase and the number of pathologists decreases, pathologists are struggling to keep up with the demand while catching human error. 

But thanks to the latest innovations in AI, the field is set for a revolution in 2023.

Judith Sandbank, MD, is Head of the Pathology Institute at Maccabi Healthcare Services and Chief Medical Officer at Ibex Medical Analytics.

Health Tech World got in touch with Judith to find out more about how AI is set to transform patient outcomes around the world.

Given the current shortage in pathologists, how can AI be used to overcome diagnostic delays?

With a rise in cancer cases pathology departments are flooded with unprecedented caseloads and the global shortage of pathologists has advanced to alarming levels.

Supporting diagnoses of disease, pathologists serve a vital role in healthcare.

Active pathologists must therefore be given effective tools that can automate routine and manual tasks so they can keep up with their caseload without having to sacrifice accuracy, quality and timeliness.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has vastly changed the trajectory of healthcare and its integration into pathology labs is set to make a significant impact – particularly in the diagnosis of cancer.

AI-powered pathology solutions can serve as a tool for decision support during diagnosis, analysing biopsies prior to the pathologist’s review by utilising algorithms trained on rich pathology datasets to support cancer detection, grading and case reporting.

Additionally, AI tools can serve as a second-read tool for quality control, flagging potential inaccuracies or misdiagnoses after a pathologist has submitted their findings.

Automating routine and manual tasks, AI can reduce the time a pathologist spends evaluating a biopsy, while serving as an objective ‘second opinion’ to empower pathologists in their diagnosis.

Trained by pathologists on extensive data sets, AI tools give pathologists greater confidence in their diagnosis, aggregating insights from experts around the globe.

With AI, additional staining of slides becomes unnecessary in many cases, thus potentially reducing turnaround times and cost.

As AI tools become commonplace in pathology labs around the world, pathologists will quickly see the practical day-to-day impact this technology offers, while improving the outcome of patient care.

As pathology labs embrace digital solutions, what does the integration of AI offer?

The average pathology lab can receive hundreds of biopsy containers every day, and sometimes even more.

Serving as a triage solution, pathologists can use AI to prioritise cases and pre-order special stains for additional review of specific cancer types.

In doing so, pathologists can improve the turnaround time for the urgent biopsies and issue reports in a timely manner.

In addition to reviewing more ordinary biopsy cases, pathologists are tasked with evaluating complex and rare cases that can take hours before a diagnosis is reached.

In automating more routine and manual tasks, AI allows pathologists to spend more time on these complex and rare cases that require their full attention and experience.

As AI becomes more widely integrated into lab information systems, we can expect pathology labs to operate at higher capacities with improved quality and timeliness.

How does AI in pathology affect issues like cancer misdiagnosis and improve patient outcomes?

With overwhelming workloads and a shortage of personnel, fewer pathologists are supporting the needs of patients, resulting in burnout, stress and fatigue.

This becomes particularly apparent in the diagnosis of small size cancers that are more difficult to detect.

Judith Sandbank, MD

With the vital role pathologists play in patient care it is imperative they have tools to support the provision of accurate and timely diagnosis.

Although many pathology labs still utilise manual tools, AI is meeting the needs of today’s pathologist, signaling a paradigm shift set to change the practice as we know it.

AI has already begun helping pathologists in meaningful ways.

This technology can evaluate high caseloads without tiring and provide more subjective analysis that is guided by aggregated datasets from around the world.

Paired with the pathologist’s expertise, AI serves as a pathologist’s digital assistant.

Whether preemptively evaluating slides for pathologists to review or reviewing a pathologist’s diagnosis, AI is helping pathologists produce accurate and complete diagnostic evaluations.

What are your projections for AI in pathology for 2023?

Pathology labs will soon begin to integrate multiple AI solutions to ease workflow constraints and enable the provision of accurate and timely diagnoses across a broad range of tissue types.

As pathologists embrace AI solutions and train the algorithms to identify new cancers, the technology will become more comprehensive with more diverse tissue profiling.

Breast biopsies are a common procedure with a high percentage of malignancy and are therefore diagnosed with high priority.

With time AI solutions will be able to offer a full suite of services for breast cancer analysis, including in addition to H&E review, IHC evaluation, breast excisions and other applications, to support more comprehensive diagnoses.

Additionally, colon and lung biopsy evaluation remain a high priority due to the large volume of cases from these tissue types and severity of disease and we will likely see AI solutions supporting diagnosis of colon and lung biopsies in the near future.

We can also expect to see AI solutions across pathology labs seamlessly integrate with existing Image Management and Lab Information Systems.

This will have a significant impact on the way in which pathology is practiced, allowing pathologists to work on a single unified solution, providing better user experience, improving their efficiency and reporting times.

What is Ibex’s role in bringing AI-powered pathology to the labs around the world?

To date, Ibex has the largest number of live AI deployments in routine clinical practice.

The company involves pathologists in training and development of its AI from the very first step, which helps tailor algorithms to meet the challenges and needs pathologists face.

This also enables straight forward roll out of Ibex’s solutions in labs large and small around the world.

Moreover, Ibex is the only company that has clinically validated solutions for three tissue types: prostate, breast and gastric, available on multiple clinical workflows for either primary diagnosis or for quality control.

Finally, Ibex is the only AI provider whose technology is integrated into solutions of leading industry partners that offer pathologists image management and LIS solutions with embedded AI capabilities, enabling to further improve and streamline work at the lab.

About Dr. Judith Sandbank

Judith is an experienced pathologist with over 40 years’ actively work in the field.

Since 2000 she has been the Head of the Pathology Institute at Maccabi Health Care Services, a leading Israeli HMO with an estimated 2.4 million members.

Judith is also the Chief Medical Officer of Ibex Medical Analytics, the leader in AI-powered cancer diagnostics.

She has played a leading role in the development of three AI platforms for cancer diagnosis across prostate, breast & gastric tissues all of which have received CE Marks.

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