Are you contemplating digital pathology or looking for a new computer for your digital pathology practice? Here are the top 10 things you should consider to help you choose the best computer to fit your needs.
On April 24, 2020, The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) enforced a new digital pathology FDA policy. It increased the availability of whole slide imaging devices for remote diagnosis. The policy makes digital pathology more affordable because it no longer limits pathologists to medical-grade computers. Pathologists must validate their chosen computer at each remote work location.
The type of computer you will need will depend on your chosen digital pathology platforms. You may be able to use a computer, laptop, or even a handheld tablet depending on what the platform needs to function. However, you will find that a lot of it is up to you because there have been very few studies on the impact of device specifications on diagnosis. Use this list as a general guide, as use your best judgement. When in doubt, choose a higher quality device.
The price range for medical-grade displays ranges from $5,500 to $14,500. Professional grade and consumer, off-the-shelf displays can be significantly less expensive. However, review all the computer specifications to ensure quality is not compromised.
When choosing a computer or tablet for digital pathology, ensure the display is adequate. A study claims a 3-4-megapixel display works, but medical-grade displays which provide higher 4-8-megapixel resolutions are preferred. You will have better contrast ratios, luminance, and color stability the more you are willing to pay for your screen.
Most medical-grade screens have sensors that guarantee longer-lasting image consistency. Be sure to check with the specifications of your monitor of choice to make sure they are worth the investment.
The larger your screen size, the more tissue you can view at once. For the best computer for digital pathology, aim for a 24” to 27” minimum screen size.
Find a computer monitor or screen with a minimum 3-megapixel resolution. For brightness and luminance, find a monitor with 250 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio from the brightest to the darkest color of a minimum of 1000:1. Have a screen refresh rate of 60 Hz color calibration management to ensure color consistency from day to day.
To ensure everything works well and is up to speed, you need a computer or tablet compatible with Windows 10 and above or the most recent iOS update. An up-to-date operating system guarantees better cyber security, speed, and enhanced capability.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The CPU is the portion of a computer that retrieves and executes instructions. It largely determines the speed of your computer. You will need a high-quality CPU that will easily handle the digital pathology software and high-resolution images. Consider something similar to Intel Xeon E5-1620 v3 at 3.50GHz.
Your computer RAM is short-term data storage where data is stored as the processor needs it. You will want a minimum of 8 GB of physical memory. However, since you are reviewing high-quality images daily, a 16 GB RAM will be even better.
A computer stores permanent data and information on its hard drive. Computers usually come with between 250-750 GB of hard drive space. Since many digital pathology platforms store images and information on the cloud, a large hard drive capacity will not be as important as a large RAM but is still worth consideration.
A given necessity is high security. Encrypt and equip your computer with good antivirus and spyware software. It is essential to safeguard any technology used to access patient information.
The FDA stated that pathologists should “use their clinical judgment to determine whether the quality of the images from the remote digital pathology devices are sufficient for interpretation of the pathological images.” From this statement, we infer it is up to the pathologist to determine which computer they will use for remote diagnosis.
As pathology continues to move into a digital era, pathologists will need to become familiar with the new tools of the trade. Treat buying a computer for digital pathology the same way you would treat buying a new microscope. It will only benefit you to become familiar with computer specifications and how they may affect your pathology.