Teledermatopathology may involve real-time transmission of images from distant locations to consulting pathologists by the remote manipulation of a robotic microscope. Alternatively, the static store-and-forward option involves the single-file transmission of subjectively preselected and captured areas of microscopic images by a referring physician. The recent introduction of virtual slide systems (VSS) involves the digitization of whole slides at high resolution thus enabling the user to view any part of the specimen at any magnification. Such technology has surmounted previous restrictions caused by the size of preselected areas and specimen sampling for telepathology. In terms of client access, these VSS may be stored on a virtual slide server, made available on the Web for remote consultation by pathologists via an integrated virtual slide client network.
Despite store-and-forward teledermatopathology being the most frequently used and less expensive approach to teledermatopathology, VSS represents the future in this discipline. The recent pilot studies suggest that the use of remote expert consultants in diagnostic dermatopathology can be integrated into daily routine, teleconsultation, and teleteaching. The new technology enables rapid and reproducible diagnoses, but despite its usability, VSS is not completely feasible for teledermatopathology of inflammatory skin diseases as the performance seems to be influenced by the availability of complete clinical data. Improvements in the diagnostic facility will no doubt follow from further development of the VSS, the slide processor, and of course training in the use of virtual microscope. Undoubtedly, as technology becomes even more sophisticated in the future, VSS will overcome the present drawbacks and find its place in all facets of teledermatopathology.
From the *Research Unit of Teledermatology and Research Unit of Dermatopathology, Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria; †Department of Dermatology, Galliera Hospital, Genoa, Italy; and ‡Dermatology Group, School of Medicine, Southern Clinical Division, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
C.M., A.M.G.B., and T.M.C. have no conflict of interest to declare.
Reprints: H. Peter Soyer, MD, FACD, Chair, Dermatology Group, School of Medicine, Southern Clinical Division, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia QLD 4102 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).