- Pathology is a prime opportunity for digitalization, but numerous barriers exist to adoption, a new report by Signify Research finds.
- To date, uptake has been "slow, regionalized and challenging," dampening health IT investment in the sector.
- Obstacles include slow regulatory approval, proprietary data standards and lack of interoperability, pathologist resistance to digital technology and a fragmented and diverse supply chain, according to the report.
The ongoing shift to value-based care is forcing hospitals to look for workflow efficiencies and cost-cutting solutions. Hospital pathology departments, however, continue to largely rely on manual review of slide specimens and "hard copy" storage and transfer of results.
The idea of building in this sector isn't new. James Golden, managing director of PwC Health Advisory, told Healthcare Dive last year that pathology and radiology/imaging represent low-hanging fruit for artificial intelligence and machine learning. "If a machine can take mundane tasks away from them, that'd be a great win" for providers and one that can boost revenue to the organization, he said.
Yet according to the report, fewer than 5% of providers have implemented fully digital pathology services.
Contributing to the problem is a lack of "full stack" pathology services platforms. Providers are forced to choose between systems assembled from disparate products and closed-loop proprietary systems, both of which create interoperability issues.
Many providers have taken a step-wise approach to digitalizing pathology — moving from secondary uses to hybrid for primary services and finally 100% digital in primary diagnosis, the report notes. While more providers fall into the secondary use category, there are signs broader deployment of digital pathology is gaining momentum.
"In the short-term, we expect this trend to continue, with more providers deploying digital technology for 'Level 1' uses, before fully implementing for primary diagnosis," the report states. "It should also be noted that the growth of enterprise imaging is having an impact here, with provider focus on enabling imaging and other clinical content to be made available across health networks"
“While this can add further confusion to procurement decision-making and whether to expand existing clinical archives and clinical viewers into pathology to support multidisciplinary teams, this influence can only be a positive sign for longer term investment in full-digital pathology digitalization,” the report adds.