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“A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Unfortunately outside the world of Pathology, histological reports could be 100,000 words and may not help a colleague outside of Pathology to understand what disease they are dealing with. Most physicians are unable to differentiate columnar cells from cuboidal cells based off histological imaging and a medical consultation can quickly escalate to an unintentional artistic exploration.
Understandably enough, patients suffering from small cell lung carcinomas do not care how pixilated their nuclei are or if the cells have a similar image to “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. All they care about is the staging and what that means for their prognosis.
Pathologists are tasked with the difficult responsibility of learning two medical languages in order to function within the hospital. They must be able to converse with their peers and have in-depth discussions about the spindle formations or the degree of dysplasia in a Barrett’s Esophagus case and yet still explain to a colleague with no advanced understanding of what pathological mechanism is occurring in order for the other departments to manage their patients appropriately. This can be a tall order when you consider that a pathologist may analyze samples from numerous hospitals within the surrounding area and it is paramount to have a standardized method of describing images that all physicians would be able to understand.
Number 1: Gross Pathology by John-Hopkins University
This application is a well-received app that is available to download on both the Android and iOS platforms. Gross Pathology is designed to provide high resolution photographs of common pathological diseases to aide a pathologist during their gross dissections. The app is based on content from the Gross Pathology Handbook: A Guide to Descriptive Terms and is frequently updated to provide the most up-to-date images for 166 different conditions. Each image is paired with gross descriptive terms to help a pathologist articulate what he is trying to say. This standardized method of descriptions has a main aim of simplifying and improving communication between healthcare provides. John-Hopkins University is responsible for designing the application; a trusted institution in the scientific community.
This application is not the cheapest medical application out there by any stretch of the imagination with a hefty asking price of $29.99 for a download but considering the number of textbooks that a pathologist has scattered around their office to reference material, this application is a mobile panacea to bring the information on the go. Most textbooks are also at least 5 times more costly than the application adding to its attractiveness. Be aware that this application does not have a search feature so it can be aggravating at times trying to pull up pathologies on the fly but still considered a valuable enough tool to make the list.
I recall during my clerkships in Pathology when my attending physician was completing a gross dissection and at times would need to reference a textbook to determine ambiguous structures that were distorted during the biopsy. She would flip through pages of her textbook and it was one of the most aggravating aspects of her job because she would have to stop working, wash her hands, and dry them just to flip through pages of the book. An application on your telephone could be much simpler to reference from and with a waterproof screen, could save you some valuable time to fly through all the other histological reports you must likely have stacked on your desk.