Aug 24, 2021

Why should you choose a medical display for digital pathology?


Limited budgets are often a reason to choose for general, commercial displays. Because yes, at the moment of buying, a medical display is usually costlier. However, it’s important to look beyond that moment, because the lower-priced solution isn’t always the most cost-effective, nor the most reliable. What makes medical displays better suited for your work in whole slide imaging?

Medical displays last longer

Know that with qualitative, medical displays, you won’t need to reinvest in new ones for many more years to come than with most consumer displays. For management, it means that display investments don’t need to be added to the profit plan every two or three years, but at a much lower frequency – for example, only every five or seven years. So even though medical displays might be more expensive at the moment of buying, far less frequent replacements lower the cost in the longer term.

The longer lifespan of a medical display also aligns it better with your other key piece of hardware: your scanner. When it’s time to replace one, it’ll probably be time for the other as well and you can start with a clean slate. It also saves technical personnel additional hassle of having to install new displays and discard old ones. The staff working with a display, day in day out, can work with it as a long-term companion, not a replaceable good.

The most important bonus is that the burden you’re placing on the planet is lower as well: with less frequent display replacements also come less raw materials needing to get mined for production and less e-waste getting left behind at the end of its lifetime.

You use it all day, every day

Displays in medical environments are generally used intensively. Not every display is made to stand operation for hours on end, every day. Many medical displays are built for intensive use during a long period of time. A good indicator of this is their warranty. You won’t find a lot of consumer displays whose warranty period runs longer than three years, right?

A lot of medical displays contain technologies that track their performance non-stop. This can be software that automatically calibrates your display screen according to specific international agreements (such as DICOM for radiology images or ICC profiles for pathology slides), or makes it easy for you to configure and run (inter)national or local compliancy tests.

Pathologist working with a medical display for digital pathology 

You need constant and consistent performance

We already mentioned that consumer displays often last less long. With that, we were not only referring to how long they last before they actually break down. We were also talking about the time it takes before their performance starts degrading.

When you use a monitor at home to read your email or check your social media, you’re using it simply for its ability to display content. If your monitor is a few years old and the colors a bit faded, you won’t misinterpret your email. When you’re analyzing slides (or any kind of medical image, for that matter), you don’t rely on the display to just show you the images. You also rely on it to show them to you correctly. Furthermore, long periods of screen time can be tough for your eyes. It goes without saying that your display shouldn’t ask more effort from them than strictly necessary. It should accommodate your eyes, not challenge them!

Sensors and stabilization technology make sure that luminance remains stable, and that images are always shown consistently as the display ages. This is especially important with LCD. LCD is the most common type of screen you find nowadays because it can offer amazing detail, but with no additional controls its performance can get unstable over time.

With technologies like this, you can work with your display with higher confidence, relying on consistent performance during its entire lifetime.

Medical displays have been tested, re-tested and cleared

At the source of medical innovations often stand medical professionals themselves. Many companies consult with them to find out what the highest needs are, and importantly, what delicacies are typical of the work they do.

In stained pathology slides, you’ll find an enormously wide range of pinks, purples and browns, whereas greens, for instance, are much less common and blacks as good as nonexistent. So instead of choosing a display that shows all colors in medium quality, you can also opt for a display that is specialized in a pathology-centered range of colors. And that’s just one of the ways in which a display can be produced to suit certain needs. Another example is refresh rate: you often zoom in and out on a slide. A fast refresh rate can help you do that with minimal delay and no blurring of the image.

This brings us to a next point: from viewing the whole slide in one glance to detailed zoom levels. A high pixel density will ensure that you can see the complete picture without the slide image losing its crispness. This, together with a high resolution and the right screen dimensions, gives you the opportunity to see details clearly at any zoom level.

Lastly, medical displays need to earn the term ‘medical’. Many regions have regulations in place to control what is being marketed and sold for use in healthcare, in order to make sure that the quality is good enough. The American Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission, for example, determine which displays and other equipment can be defined as ‘medical device’.

So what should I check then, when choosing a display for digital pathology?

The most important thing is to be critical. Some good research can do wonders for your team’s work and productivity during the coming years.