Era of Digital Pathology Steadily Approaches

IMMEDIATELY AFTER GENERAL ELECTRIC ANNOUNCED its partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) on June 5 to develop a fully integrated digital pathology system, we took a closer look at how some pioneering pathologists are using digital imaging systems in their daily clinical practice.

What we found is that the technology is fairly well developed and, in some other countries, pathologists already use digital pathology images for primary diagnoses on a regular basis. That won’t happen in the United States until the FDA clears this type of technology for clinical applications.

To share what we learned with you, we provide an intelligence briefing on pages 12-13 about how pathologists at the University Health Network (UHN), in Toronto, Ontario, have used digital pathology for frozen sections with great success for several years. Using ScanScope, a digital imaging system from Aperio Technologies, Inc., the UHN pathologists have improved workflow and patient care. They now regularly use the system to transmit images over the Internet from surgical sites around the corner or from a hospital 400 miles north of Toronto. By allowing pathologists to work remotely, the system supports the pathology needs of hospitals where no regular pathologist is on-site.

To be sure, companies developing fully-integrated digital pathology systems face plenty of hurdles. That’s the topic of our second intelligence briefing, found on pages 15-18. We interviewed two CEOs of companies that sell pathology imaging products and systems to learn their views about how the pathology profession is likely to react to digital pathology technology which holds the potential to eventually move pathologists away from glass slides and microscopes.

Repeatedly over the past decade, THE DARK REPORT has reminded its clients and regular readers about the strategic implications of baby boomer demographics. As experienced pathologists begin retiring in significant numbers, it will be new technologies—including fully-digital pathology imaging systems—that will become useful tools for increasing the productivity of individual pathologists. These same technologies will also contribute to improvements in the clinical quality delivered by pathologists to physicians and patients. As you will read in this issue, the sustained success of Toronto’s UHN pathologists in using fully-digitized, whole-slide pathology images for frozen sections offers some fascinating reasons why the era of digital pathology may be closer than we all think.


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