Recent developments in machine learning have stimulated intense interest in software that may augment or replace human experts. Machine learning may impact pathology practice by offering new capabilities in analysis, interpretation, and outcomes prediction using images and other data. The principles of operation and management of machine learning systems are unfamiliar to pathologists, who anticipate a need for additional education to be effective as expert users and managers of the new tools.


To provide a background on machine learning for practicing pathologists, including an overview of algorithms, model development, and performance evaluation; to examine the current status of machine learning in pathology and consider possible roles and requirements for pathologists in local deployment and management of machine learning systems; and to highlight existing challenges and gaps in deployment methodology and regulation.

Data Sources.—

Sources include the biomedical and engineering literature, white papers from professional organizations, government reports, electronic resources, and authors' experience in machine learning. References were chosen when possible for accessibility to practicing pathologists without specialized training in mathematics, statistics, or software development.


Machine learning offers an array of techniques that in recent published results show substantial promise. Data suggest that human experts working with machine learning tools outperform humans or machines separately, but the optimal form for this combination in pathology has not been established. Significant questions related to the generalizability of machine learning systems, local site verification, and performance monitoring remain to be resolved before a consensus on best practices and a regulatory environment can be established.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

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Competing Interests

All authors are members of the Machine Learning Workgroup, College of American Pathologists Informatics Committee.

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