Advancing Digital Pathology, Improving Lives – Part II

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Healthcare institutions are constantly seeking ways to provide patients with faster results and improved treatment options. Digital pathology is helping to revolutionize patient care, allowing healthcare providers around the globe to more efficiently review, share, and analyze cases1. In part II of our series, we answer some frequently asked questions about the role of digital pathology in hospital organizations; from community hospitals to Academic Medical Centers (AMCs), and large networked institutions such as Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs). For privacy reasons, the names of some organizations have been withheld.

Question: What is the Return on Investment for Digital Pathology?

With tight budgets and increasing service demand, healthcare institutions need to find ways to reduce costs without compromising excellence in patient care. Digital pathology can save money in a variety of areas, providing significant return on investment. These savings can be applied to other, critical areas of lab functionality.

A lab manager at an enterprise healthcare provider in North America noted: “I’ve seen huge savings in shipping costs for slide transfers with off-site pathologists and collaborators”by moving from physical slide shipping to sharing via digital pathology. Similarly, a large US-based AMC found that digital pathology alleviated the need for additional lab personnel and costs related to slide handling and shipping logistics. Further, income is being generated by the lab through a central scanning service3. Digital pathology can also reduce the costs incurred due to pathologist’s travel between sites – both the direct cost and the indirect opportunity-cost of the pathologist’s time spent away from their caseload. One prominent children’s hospital enjoyed significant cost savings through reduction of slide logistics and pathologist’s travel time4.

Question: Does Going Digital Impact Patient Results?

The most vital aspect of clinical work is to deliver the right results to the patient, and provide them with the most appropriate course of treatment. Digital pathology can help to improve results through access to the correct subspecialist pathologist to review the case, wherever they are located in the world. According to Dr. Sylvia Asa of University Health Network in Toronto: “Digital pathology helps us to get to the right answer, right away because the right pathologist is seeing the sample.” Digital pathology also provides quantitative tools such as clinical image analysis, which can help to standardize results and reduce variability in slide review5. One individual from an enterprise healthcare institution noted: “The Aperio (digital pathology) system has been a great benefit to our pathologists in helping with breast panel scoring6.”Both by facilitating expert review, regardless of location, and through enhanced quantitative tools, digital pathology can help healthcare organizations to confidently provide the right results to their patients.

Question: What is the Effect of Digital Pathology on Collaborative Opportunities?

Collaboration with colleagues is critical in healthcare organizations. It may take place within institutions, across multi-site networks, or with external organizations globally. Hospitals relying on glass slides encounter challenges such as the cost and delay of slide shipment, international restrictions on sample transport, and overhead of the pathologist’s travel. Digital pathology enables rapid and efficient sharing of slides and clinical data, and modern digital pathology solutions are designed to satisfy the IT security and HIPAA requirements of the clinical environment7. For example, in a study with Laboratory Diagnostics Medical Group, digital pathology reduced pathologist time spent preparing for Multidisciplinary Team Meetings by 50%, while providing an improved meeting experience for pathologists and clinicians8.

Digital pathology can also benefit the clinical research that takes place at AMCs, allowing researchers to share study data more efficiently both within and outside their organization. The large US children’s hospital, previously discussed, found that digital pathology resulted in faster turnaround time on their research, and improved communication with clinical care teams4. Additionally, Daniel Martinez, Lab Director at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted: “Pathologists consulting with researchers enjoy the ability to review slides for researchers at their convenience by having easy access to the digital slides9.”

Conclusion

Healthcare organizations around the world are realizing how digital pathology can help them to reach their goals, including increased efficiency, enhanced services, and improved patient care1. With enterprise solutions that enable multi-site networking, global collaboration, and increased standardization10, while integrating seamlessly with existing clinical workflows and IT infrastructure, digital pathology will continue to change the face of modern healthcare11.

References

  1. The Future of Imaging Technology in the Science of Pathology: by Dan Angress, January 17, 2013; originally published in Medical Laboratory Observer
  2. Data validated on 12/17/2014 from TechValidate
  3. “Large Research Institution Improved Efficiencies with Aperio ePathology Solutions”
  4. Market Research conducted with a Children’s Hospital Research Center, 2015
  5. For full indications for use of Aperio ePathology eIHC IVD Systems visit LeicaBiosystems.com.
  6. Data validated on 12/17/2014 from TechValidate
  7. https://digitalpathologyassociation.org/healthcare-faqs
  8. “Success Story: Using Digital Pathology to Enhance Tumor Board Meetings in a Community Hospital”
  9. Data validated on 12/17/2014 from TechValidate
  10. Dobson, L., Conway, C., Hanley, A., Johnson, A., Costello, S., O’Grady, A., Connolly, Y., Magee, H., O’Shea, D., Jeffers, M., & Kay, E. (2010) “Image analysis as an adjunct to manual HER-2 immunohistochemical review: a diagnostic tool to standardize interpretation” Histopathology 57(1): 27-38
  11. “Advancing Digital Pathology, Improving Lives, Part I”. Originally published in Health System Management, Aug 2016.

The Clinical uses described in the information supplied has been registered in the EU, licensed in Brazil and cleared by the U.S. FDA. The products illustrated in the information supplied are not available outside of these regions for the clinical uses described.

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For more information, please visit LeicaBiosystems.com/Aperio.

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