Digital Pathology: Insights from Early Clinical Adopters in the US - Cover

Digital Pathology: Insights from Early Clinical Adopters in the US

Adoption of digital pathology in the US is early but expected to grow significantly in the coming years. To learn more about what is happening in this market, KLAS interviewed 14 early clinical adopters and published insights from their success stories in our US Digital Pathology 2023 report. We structured the report to answer the following questions:

  • What are early adopters doing with digital pathology?
  • How did early adopters build a business case for digital pathology?
  • What ROI and other benefits have early adopters seen?
  • How did early adopters select their vendor/solution for digital pathology?
  • What approaches led to successful implementations among early adopters?

The report provides an overview of early adopters’ best practices and the lessons they have learned; 12 of the 14 organizations even opted to share their success stories in more detail. Our hope is that organizations can use this report to guide their individual paths toward adopting digital pathology.

Digital Pathology Gaining Momentum in the US

As we were conducting interviews, one respondent said something like, “Pathology is the last bastion of analog material that still exists in healthcare.” The US is making progress in digital pathology, but we are a bit behind. For the most part, pathologists are still reading from glass slides, and making the move to digital pathology can be challenging for numerous reasons.

The big question on organizations’ minds around digital pathology is the value proposition. Despite digital advancements, pathology still requires physical glass slides for scanning purposes, and storage costs for those slides persist due to regulatory standards. In contrast, radiology has fully transitioned away from film, with digital images being sent directly to radiologists, eliminating the need for physical storage. In addition to value proposition, digital pathology storage is a sticking point; it can be more intensive than storage for other ologies, as the case files are very large.

Despite these challenges, we believe the widespread use of AI and the establishment of standard CPT codes for digital reimbursements will be catalysts for the rapid adoption of digital technology in the US. We are on the cusp of a significant shift. Since our 2022 digital pathology report, there has been a steady increase in new adopters in the US as well as broadening adoption among those already live with the technology. Digital pathology is becoming a more frequent discussion topic in the imaging conversations KLAS is having with providers, who want to know how to integrate digital pathology into their operations. Numerous vendors are in the early stages of gaining clinical adopters in the US.

All this being said, the market is very dynamic—an increasing number of organizations is joining the road to digital pathology adoption and seeing impressive outcomes around patient care and efficiencies.

Findings and Surprises from the Data

This report is particularly valuable because organizations would have to consult with numerous peers to gather similar information. KLAS doesn’t often provide such a comprehensive overview (one that includes organization case studies) of what provider organizations need to know about a market. We hope readers can use the report to understand their peers’ experiences and set their expectations accordingly.

 As the report came together, it was insightful to see the various adoption approaches among early adopters. In such an early market with limited set standards for implementation and adoption, each interviewed organization seemed to take a different road when it came to their own adoption of digital pathology. It was especially insightful to learn that organizations taking a big-bang or phased approach could have success in rolling out digital pathology; the general advice among respondents was to tackle as much as possible up front to gain efficiencies and momentum in the adoption process.

We were also impressed to learn and validate how many IMS vendors have deeply adopting customers for primary diagnosis in the US—multiple with volumes for digital sign-outs exceeding 100,000 cases per year. There are several vendors who are going deep with digital pathology in the US. In the future, we are excited to measure vendor performance in this space.

Where Does the Market Go from Here?

Over the next 5–10 years, we will likely witness a transformation in pathology similar to what occurred with radiology. In radiology, there was a rapid transition within a 5- to 10-year period where film was completely phased out in favor of digital systems (e.g., PACS). For digital pathology, there are still numerous regulatory hurdles to address, but in the coming years, we expect digital pathology will be widely adopted in the US and become the standard practice rather than a novel approach. One early adopter we spoke with predicted that in about 10 years, everyone may simply refer to "pathology" rather than "digital pathology" with the implicit understanding that it is digital, much like we do with radiology today. 

As KLAS looks ahead, we want to delve into vendor performance in digital pathology and explore what customers can expect their experience to be like with certain vendors. We also want to see how organizations’ partnerships with their IMS vendors have unfolded and the outcomes they see as their strategies continue to progress. As time goes on, it will be exciting to explore the adoption of AI as well and the outcomes it will drive in the industry.

A Thank You to Participating Organizations

We can’t express our thanks enough to the organizations who shared their stories with us. The report wouldn’t exist without them. Interviewing them was a unique experience, and the energy and excitement they shared were palpable. None of these early adopters are content with standing still; they are eager to improve and help other organizations avoid stumbling blocks. This is definitely a community where everyone is rooting for each other and is eager to help others succeed.

For more details, be sure to check out the report.

© Nina Lawrenson/ / Adobe Stock