Digital Pathology Thought Leader Talks

Professor David Snead headshot
Professor David Snead

Professor David Snead is a consultant pathologist at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire and Professor of Pathology Practice at the University of Warwick. Professor Snead has been working on digital pathology projects since 2012 and is a recognised international leader in digital diagnostics. His team was awarded the 2016 Roger Cotton Prize for publishing a paper on the world’s largest validation study on the use of digital pathology. 


When they see and experience working at a digital pathology workstation…they won't want to go back

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How do you build a case for digital pathology?

As a recognised leader in digital pathology and health service transformation, Professor David Snead explains why organisations must build a compelling case for change that puts pathologists and patients at its heart.

“The question I get asked most often about digital pathology – which is the most difficult to answer – is how to make the case for it,” said Professor Snead. “The honest answer is it's just better. You can't measure how much better it is, because it's an impossible thing to do, but it is better quality.”

Digital pathology has huge benefits to pathologists, lab managers and providers, he believes. Leaders must be positive in promoting the benefits of a new approach. “(Digital pathology) is a better way of working and you need to use every argument you can to convince people that it's the right thing to invest in. Because, without it, so many avenues of improvement will not be available to you,” said Professor Snead.

The first tip is to do it because you won't regret it and think big,” said Professor Snead. “You need to have a comprehensive system which covers as much of your workflow as you can possibly envisage.”

New technology like digital pathology requires changes to how pathologists, lab managers and others involved in diagnostics work. Consensus building is important, but it shouldn’t impede change, he said. “Don't worry too much about getting everyone on board to start with. There will be early adopters or enthusiasts willing to take on digital pathology” said Professor Snead. As digital pathology systems become embedded and deliver benefits, they will change opinions. “There'll be many people in the middle who generally are uncertain about how important it is, and there'll be a few who are opposed. You have to take them all forward through the process.”

Professor Snead has personally led digital pathology transformation projects and seen the impact that systems can have on individuals – even those initially opposed to change. “All I can say is that they will all come on board in the end,” he said. “When they see and experience what working at a digital pathology workstation is really like, they will become accustomed to it and they will adopt it. They won't want to go back afterwards.”

Pathologist in lab with slide
patient in hospital with doctor
The future of digital pathology

Professor Snead is enthusiastic about the ability of digital pathology to transform diagnosis. “When we look back at what we were doing when I first started training in pathology, which was some years ago now, we were using photographs, photomicrographs and computers to measure the size of nuclei and start to use that as a tool for grading dysplasia. Now, we’re using artificial intelligence (AI) to instantly recognise all the different cell types on a section.”

These technologies are incredibly exciting, says Professor Snead. “There are solutions in the digital image which the computer can recognise and can measure to a standard which humans simply can't,” he said. “That's what we need to grasp, explore and make use of.”

We’re currently only at the start of understanding what’s possible with the technology, said Professor Snead. “We're not going to be able to progress science without it,” he said. “We need it (digital pathology) to deliver the best care that we can for our patients.”

Experience the future of digital pathology with Roche

Digital pathology is a flexible solution that benefits pathologists, lab managers, NHS trusts and patients. Lab-ready digital systems can streamline processes, optimise resources, and support the shift to flexible working.

The Roche digital pathology solution combines advanced diagnostic hardware and software with our clinical expertise to accelerate your organisation’s digital journey.

Our interoperable digital pathology solution seamlessly integrates into existing workflows, delivering immediate benefits and long-term impact. We can act as a  digital pathology partner, providing expertise, advice and support to embed change and unlock benefits.

This Q&A is taken from a more extended interview with Professor David Snead conducted by Roche Diagnostics UK & Ireland (data on file). The views shared in this article represent the views and opinions of the original speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of Roche Diagnostics UK & Ireland.

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