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Tele-Medicine, Tele-Health... Tele-Life

By Andrew Chomos

Next year is now. COVID-19's accelerant to the Digital Pathology Market

The New Normal

Virtual staff meetings, FaceTime discussions, on-line conferences and product demonstrations...

Over the past few months we have actively been participating in a radical transformation in both our professional and personal lives. Family trips to Grandma's house have been replaced by Zoom gatherings while visiting your Personal Care Provider has migrated to "tele-health" virtual appointments. 

Federal and State social distancing guidelines and postponements of otherwise traditional medical procedures have resulted in revenue declines in excess of 50% at many healthcare institutions.

The Pathology community is front and center in this transformation, but is it ready?

The path towards "tele-medicine" has intersected with "tele-health" as we find ourselves leading a new "tele-life". Interesting concept? Act on it maybe next year? Pathologists and Health Care Administrators have been contemplating Digital Pathology adoption for quite some time. Yet more often than not, institutions have elected to defer their investment in this emerging technology and instead rely on the traditional microscope and inefficient analog workflows.

Cost-effective scanning technologies and rapidly declining image storage costs are becoming stronger arguments for implementing digital pathology workflow software, such as Inspirata's Dynamyx. The tremendous efficiencies innovation can bring to pathologists and their departments should and can counter many common objections to investing in new technology.

Tools, such as Inspirata's interactive Return on Investment (ROI) Calculator, demonstrate tangible and significant productivity gains institutions can embrace by converting their final "-ology" to a digitized workflow. Those gains include but are not limited to:

  • Remote pathology
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Rapid access to prior cases
  • AI-powered image analysis tools

Things have changed; now it's all about lost revenue and the backlog "bulge".

Institutions have experienced reductions in Histology Lab volumes in excess of 50% as elective procedures have been deferred. Many pathologists have expressed a preference to maintain social distancing via working from home. The Department of Health has responded with relaxed enforcement of existing regulations immediately enabling pathologists to use their own professional judgment to determine the adequacy of digital pathology image quality when rendering a diagnosis.

My colleague, Mark Lloyd, recently authored a very insightful post about the backlog "bulge" that may create challenges as we gradually try to resume normal schedules. Coupled with the existing shortage of pathologists, the backlog "bulge" will require continued work-from-home scenarios and most likely recruitment of retired pathologists to return to the profession in some capacity. Since these older pathologists would be at a higher risk in a hospital setting, recruiting them would be much easier if a work-from-home option was offered.

A new flavor of ROI

While digital pathology ROI has traditionally promoted inbound consultation revenue streams and pathology efficiency gains, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a completely different spin on the debate raising critical new questions, such as:

  • How are we going to catch up?
  • How are we going to keep up?

Furthermore, many organizations are already facing litigation from families of employees and contractors who fell ill with the novel Coronavirus while performing their duties on-premise. The costs associated with defending against such litigation should play a key additional factor in building the business case for digital pathology. 

Next year came suddenly. Stay safe!

Tags: Post-COVID-19, digital pathology, future