Telepathology: Faster, More Accurate Diagnoses for the Canadian Healthcare System

Telepathology: Faster, More Accurate Diagnoses for the Canadian Healthcare System


Newfoundland and Labrador have a new system that will expedite the diagnoses of thousands of patients province-wide. Not only will the diagnoses for such illnesses and diseases like cancer get to the patient faster they will also be more accurate and rely less on multiple diagnoses from multiple doctors.

Pathology is the science or study of the origin, nature and course of diseases. Pathologists analyze the conditions and processes of a disease or any deviation from a healthy, normal or efficient human condition. Telepathology is the practice of pathology from a distance. It uses telecommunication systems to facilitate the transfer of image rich pathology data between distant locations for the purpose of diagnoses, education and research. This new technology will provide doctor’s with the ability to diagnose patients illnesses and diseases quickly and more accurately than ever before. The only other province to have this resource is Manitoba.

The benefits of telepathology are seemingly endless when comparing to the standard practices of pathologist offices. With telepathology doctors have access to expertise on complex cases 24 hours a day 265 days a year. Doctors are also able to balance their onsite and offsite pathology tasks, increase productivity, increase profitability. An important thing to remember is that even doctors need vacations! When your doctor goes for their holidays you can have peace of mind knowing your tests will not be put on hold until they get back. The doctor can also relax knowing their patients are in the hands of a database of trustworthy doctors from all over the province. The telepathology system also makes maximum use of the labrotory equipment, leaving nothing to be postponed. Most importantly, due to the nature of our free health care system many people are waiting for hours, sometimes days or weeks until they are able to meet with a pathologist. Telepathology cuts these wait times to virtually no time at all.

According to the most recent Canadian medical data approximately 10%-15% of Canadian patients are misdiagnosed by doctors. This number is likely higher because most misdiagnoses are hidden and never discovered, accurate data may never be recorded. A study completed in 2001 stated that one in five mistakes occur because the system fails, a report is lost or a test is inaccurate (Anderssen, 2012). In 2009 the Canadian province of Newfoundland suffered a major controversy due to the mishandling and poorly managed handling of laboratory work. Hundreds of women, who were being checked by their doctors for breast cancer were misdiagnosed or never diagnosed. There was a failure of accountability and a large oversight, if the province had the telepatology system in place seven years ago wouldn’t have happened. The procedures and protocols of the Eastern Canada health system were practically non-existent. Far greater emphasis was put on financial management than patient care (CBC, 2009).

This is not only a problem in Eastern Canada, and their pathology system is not the only provincial health care unit that has failed. As Canadians, we have no health care choices, unless we look south of our border into the United States for care, which is expensive to say the least. It should be the duty of every provincial government to ensure the care we as Canadian receive is the very best that can be provided. Instead of focusing on finances, focusing on patients is that way of the future.

Telepathology in Newfoundland provides health care professionals with access to an online system that creates the ability to share, converse, communicate and check on test results throughout the province. Since the inquiry in 2009 regarding breast cancer misdiagnoses the province put in place a system whereby each diagnosis must be checked and double-checked by two pathologists. This took quite some time as the results were usually sent through courier. With the new online system the courier and physical handling of the diagnoses between departments is completely eliminated. The Telepathology Network is a $2.5 million venture between the provincial government and the digital health organization Canada Health Infoway, and has been in the works for at least five years (CBC, 2016).