Preparing for the Digital Pathology Revolution

Digital pathology in healthcare is on the cusp of a huge uptake in adoption in many countries around the world. While a few countries have a moderate level of adoption (Sweden for example), it is much more common to only run across a handful of organizations in any given country using digital pathology for primary diagnosis. For example, few hospitals have yet to leverage the technology in the US for primary diagnosis as FDA approval for solutions has only recently been granted. In other countries it is more common to run across organizations using digital pathology for research purposes with only a handful of pioneering organizations in any given country (like UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, and Austria) using it fully for primary diagnosis in Europe. In general, adoption in the Western Hemisphere is very scattered.

We wanted to do more research into digital pathology in order to get ahead of this emerging global market. To do so, we at KLAS interviewed some of the leaders in the space to learn about what it takes to jump into digital pathology. We asked these leaders what organizations need to know to prepare and how to get started. We recently published our findings in the Global Digital Pathology 2019 report.

The Move to Primary Diagnosis

The technology involved in digital pathology has improved a lot over the last ten years. Five to ten years ago, people mainly used these systems for research purposes and not for primary diagnosis. In order to use digital pathology for diagnostic purposes, it almost goes without saying that you have to have strong workflow and viewing technology.

Although the scanners weren't great 10 years ago, they were functional. Since then they have continued to improve and now there are many very strong scanners on the market of with varying capacities and capabilities. The viewing technology has vastly improved as well over the last five years to the point that organizations now feel confident their pathologists can adopt a digital workflow without sacrificing speed or diagnostic quality.

Now, digital pathology is not the perfect solution in all cases just yet. As you’ll see in the report, there are still limitations where providers using these digital pathology systems advise waiting. But for run-of-the-mill images that require standard 40x magnification, these solutions are very functional.

The Technology Components

Because so few organizations are using digital pathology solutions for primary diagnosis, one of the main focuses of this report is about preparing for the future. We put together an ecosystem to show what digital pathology is from a technology standpoint along with the key criteria to consider. Here, we’re focused on the scanner, workflow, and PACS aspects.

digital pathology ecosystem 5 key technological components of digital pathology

Other Key Findings

Though this report does not drill into vendor performance as much as other reports as it is still early days for the market, we include information on what vendors are offering and why they are or are not being selected. We examine three different types of offerings from vendors: all-in-one solutions, scanner only, and PACS/workflow only. Philips and Leica were both recently approved by the FDA for their scanner technology, and they have all-in-one solutions. Scanner vendors include 3DHISTECH, Hamamatsu Photonics, Roche Diagnostics, and Huron Digital Pathology. Vendors that offer only the PACS/workflow solutions are Sectra, Inspirata, Kanteron Systems, and TRIBVN Healthcare. Of these vendors, Sectra and Philips are early standout vendors in the space.

Beyond the information on vendors, readers can expect to find the recommended first steps to getting started and what benefits organizations can expect from moving to digital pathology.

Help Determining Strategy 

Maybe I am biased, but this report is incredibly helpful both inside and outside the US because almost all healthcare organizations are in a similar stage right now. I would use this report almost as a buyer’s guide or as an introduction to digital pathology.

It is my hope that different provider organizations can look at the insights we present to determine their strategies going forward. For example, a standalone hospital should know that digital pathology will be cost neutral at best, but there are still reasons they should consider the functionality. For larger organizations, adoption seems inevitable as there are real money saving benefits to going digital depending on how your organization is structured.

To get a first look at the early performance of some the vendors in this space, and to learn more about the healthcare leaders’ perspectives in digital pathology, I recommend reading the full report.




     Photo cred: Adobe Stock, Hoda Bogdan

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