Era of Digitized Pathology Systems Approaches

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SURGICAL PATHOLOGISTS SHOULD GET READY! I predict that they will soon have the opportunity to purchase and use fully digital, automated pathology systems that can perform primary diagnosis. When that happens, it will mark the final cycle of the era when the principal method of diagnosing tissue was that of eyeballs fixed to microscopes, scanning cells as glass slides are pushed around the stage.

The introduction of digital pathology systems capable of primary diagnosis will likely be the single most disruptive event to anatomic pathology in the past two decades. That’s because automation of the primary diagnosis of tissue will upend current work flow and clinical practices in surgical pathology.

I make this prediction, based on two market developments in anatomic pathology. One development is the success of Aperio Technologies, Inc., in placing fully digital pathology systems in as many as 375 laboratories in 25 countries. This company is finding a ready market for its digital solutions that support existing pathology work flow and clinical practices.

The second market development is the long-awaited entry of General Electric into laboratory medicine. As you will read on pages 9-11, GE Healthcare is partnering with some of the best minds in digital pathology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to create Omnyx, LLC. The aim is to develop digital pathology systems that can integrate the transmission and use of digitized pathology images across the care continuum, support improved workflow, and contribute to increased clinical quality—as well as automate primary diagnosis. The two partners estimate that the market for digitized pathology systems will be about $2 billion per year.

I suspect GE is making this move now because it believes it has digital and other technologies that can be transformational to anatomic pathology. It wants to leverage its experience at digitizing radiology and evolving radiologists into a fully digital work flow by doing the same in anatomic pathology. In the 1990s, such companies as NeoPath, Inc., and Neuromedical Systems, Inc., privately showed THE DARK REPORT how digital cytology systems and software algorithms could do accurate, automated primary diagnosis on a variety of tissue types. Now the question is: are surgical pathologists ready to accept digital pathology systems that can move them away from microscopes and in front of computer screens? GE’s entry into this marketplace is evidence that it believes the answer is: “Yes!”

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