Fixation on Histology

Histology Crystal Ball


Histology Crystal Ball

If you had a crystal ball, what would your prediction be for the future of histology? That is the question we asked our members as part of March’s celebration of a decade of Histology Professionals Day. Here are some of their answers!

“I expect the liquid biopsy to cut down the need for histology in the future. Diagnosing tumors from blood samples before they become macroscopically visible means they can be treated early and never require surgery.”

“I see Histology and molecular biology in the same room being performed by Histotechnologists on a rotational basis. Much like now where one day is spent performing microtomy and embedding and another day performing IHC and special stains and still another working in the molecular lab. Education will of course need to be elevated. I also see new job titles for techs who screen and release images that were digitized from glass. I see pathologists signing out from the image and not the slide. I also see new computer algorithms written that can make a diagnosis from the image. I think office practices would be interested in this when they order slide prep only.

I see smaller labs folding and being absorbed by the larger labs like Quest and LabCorp. This change will not be driven by Quest and LabCorp but will be driven by the government’s reimbursement rate and an inability to offer a competitive cost per test due to economies of scale. I see the larger companies like Kaiser Permanente hiring their own Histology travelers. It will be a lot cheaper this way for them to cut out the middleman. I see our pay going up as the current pool of Histotechnologists become more diluted with tasks.

Greater demands will be placed on our time, our tasks used to include embedding, microtomy, special stains and an occasional muscle biopsy. Now we have additional tasks in:

  • Immunohistochemistry to include optimization, validating.

  • Lot to lot verification, new antibodies are being developed all the time.

  • Molecular Biology. Most labs are at least cutting the cases needed for molecular biology and next gen sequencing.

  • Digital Pathology. Histologists are being asked to convert glass slides to a digital image, QC the digitized images and release the images to clients.

All these additional tasks are being added at a time when baby boomers are retiring and histology schools are closing, creating a shortage of staff.”

“I think as we learn more about disease on the molecular level, some of our testing will drop off. My hope is that there will be a cure for cancer, and we won’t even be needed, but with cures for the old, come new forms of disease.”

“I predict a huge increase in the number of initial diagnoses from liquid biopsies rather than surgical biopsies. I also predict more molecular histology tests. I also predict increased use of whole slide imaging.”