Aims: Even though entirely digitized microscopic tissue sections (whole slide images) are increasingly being used in histopathology diagnostics, little data is still available on the effect of this technique on pathologists’ reading time. This study aimed to compare the time required to perform microscopic assessment by pathologists between a conventional workflow (using an optical microscope and glass slides) and digitized whole slide images (WSI).
Methods: The study was performed in the Laboratory for Pathology Eastern Netherlands (LabPON, Hengelo, The Netherlands), which has been using WSI in primary diagnostics for several years. Cases were either read in a conventional workflow, while the pathologist recorded the time required for diagnostics and reporting or were read using a fully digitized workflow. The digitized workflow was fully integrated with the laboratory information system, and reading times were extracted from the log files of the image management system.
Results: Analysis of over 3800 cases showed a time gain in favour of the digital workflow for most case categories, with the highest gain (68% time gain) for prostate biopsies (prostate care program). On average, a gain of 12.3% was found for the digital workflow, taking the case distribution into account.
Conclusions: It was concluded that transitioning from conventional microscopy to use of WSI significantly reduces the pathologists’ reading times. A fully integrated pathologist working environment is required to fully benefit from the benefits of a digital workflow.