Digital Pathology Gaining Traction in Europe - Cover

Digital Pathology Gaining Traction in Europe

More than 20 years ago, PACS solutions transformed the radiology industry, making it easier to share and store images. Today, we are seeing the beginning of a similar transformation but in the digital pathology industry. Though digital pathology solutions have long been used for research purposes, these solutions are becoming more widely adopted for primary diagnoses, particularly in European countries.

To better understand the rapidly expanding interest and growth in this market, we recently published our European Digital Pathology 2021 report, which is a follow-up to our 2019 report. This report is the first time we’ve been able to share performance data for market-leading vendors whose customers are live with digital pathology for primary diagnosis.

Why So Much Traction in Europe?

Several regions of the world—Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the US—have healthcare organizations that are considering or piloting digital pathology solutions, but none are as far along as Europe in terms of adoption. When comparing the European market to the US market specifically, the US experiences more barriers; for example, vendors in the US have to deal with the notoriously arduous FDA approval process while vendors in Europe do not.

Additionally, with the worldwide shortage of pathologists, European healthcare organizations feel digital pathology options can provide more efficiency and offset the decline of pathologists in the workforce.

Digital Pathology Adoption Is Taking Off

Two years ago, the two of us visited early adopters in Europe. At that time, there were very few sites using digital pathology technology. But the adoption increase in Europe over the past few years has been surprising and impressive. With the outbreak of COVID-19, we were unsure how adoption would be affected. But as the pandemic unfolded, we saw that the new normal of working from home became a catalyst for unprecedented growth; people could read their cases remotely without the worry of infection, so digital pathology usage exploded.

Now, there are more than double the number of European organizations doing digital pathology, and that number will continue to increase for the next several years. Almost every country in western and northern Europe has a health system or pathology group using this technology, though there are still a lot of greenfield healthcare organizations out there. Digital pathology is only scratching the surface.

Which Vendors Play in this Market?

Because there is so much purchase energy around digital pathology right now, several vendors are active in the space, and some are new entrants that are hoping to grow their customer base. A few vendors offer standalone digital pathology solutions, while others that have traditionally offered radiology products are also offering digital pathology solutions.

Philips, Sectra, and Tribun Health are the main vendors being considered and selected in various markets in Europe. New entrants include Hologic, Indica Labs, and Proscia. For more information about vendor performance, be sure to check out the report.

digital pathology landscape in europeIt should be noted that most organizations are using digital pathology solutions for reading histology cases, but functionality for cytology cases is coming. The vendor Hologic is working on a scanner and viewer specific to cytology, and we are seeing other vendors working to offer cytology functionality as well. So we expect organizations to start using those solutions in the future because most cytology cases are still being done under a microscope.

The Future Looks Promising

Though digital pathology is still relatively new in Europe, provider organizations’ expectations and needs are only going to increase. Organizations are excited about the possibilities available with digital solutions and workflows.

For example, AI in digital pathology is going to take off quickly. AI is already a hot-button topic in the healthcare industry but has found limited adoption for clinical use cases. It has mostly been used for research, but we expect there will be a lot of AI uptake for pathology use cases over the next few years. There are some vendors today who offer pieces of AI for imaging, and there are others partnering to offer AI functionality.

In KLAS research, certain vendors—like Visiopharm and—are frequently mentioned by healthcare organizations as potentially having an early lead in the AI industry, and new vendors are popping up all the time. This is all to say that digital pathology is an area where it feels like AI can be real and effective. AI is already being used for certain aspects of pathology, and we’re excited to see it continue to expand.

In addition to AI, we hope to highlight scanners more in the future because they are such a critical component of digital pathology. KLAS doesn’t have data on those areas right now, but we are looking into publishing future reports with this information. In the meantime, you can find our most recent market insights in our European Digital Pathology report.

Photo credit: J-mel, Adobe Stock