Understanding requirements of digital pathology workflow matters as regulatory and reimbursement elements align toward wider adoption beyond 2023. Upcoming Dark Daily webinar May 10 to cover infrastructure requirements
Nearly all pathology residents and fellows, as well as many histologists and other medical students, have been trained using digital images and, therefore, digital pathology tools. This resounds as a major and important development now working in tandem with recent coding decisions and regulatory recommendations that may combine to advance digital pathology to a significant tipping point.
As Dark Daily’s sister publication, The Dark Report, has described in great detail over the past several years, the trend toward digital pathology implementation started in the mid-2000s. Much has been learned through trial and error that may make the practical path forward clearer for those still on the sidelines.
Digital pathology infrastructure and information technology (IT) requirements are better known after years of research at academic centers throughout the United States—but only for those closest to the action. Two examples are University of Southern California (USC) on the West Coast and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) on the East Coast.
During a free 60-minute educational webinar on May 10, W. Dean Wallace, MD, (far left) of University of Southern California (USC) and Orly Ardon, PhD, MBA, (immediate left) of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) will explain digital pathology infrastructure, IT, and lessons learned through firsthand experiences. The webinar is sponsored by Hamamatsu, and continuing education credit is available for listening. (Photo copyrights: USC and MSKCC.)
Seven Advantages of Early Adoption of Whole Slide Imaging and Digital Pathology
Many pathologists know that academic centers throughout the U.S. have been the first to adopt and use digital pathology scanners and systems. Early work in what have become custom digital pathology ecosystems has enabled academic pathology groups to:
- Learn how to implement, validate, and design workflows that include digital pathology systems and computational pathology.
- Determine how physical environments need to change for slide scanners, achieving quality images, maximizing scanner utility, and expanding scanning capabilities in medium- and high-throughput laboratories.
- Contract with pharmaceutical companies and drug developers to read digital images in support of drug research and clinical trials.
- Understand how digital pathology applies for various use cases, including primary diagnosis, frozen section diagnosis, consultations, second opinions, and telepathology.
- Successfully spread pathologist technical and professional support across multiple laboratory locations and remote customers.
- Learn best practices for conducting tumor boards and peer reviews of pathology cases.
- Validate and verify new hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stains.
Hospital and Lab Leaders Have Questions About Digital Pathology Requirements
As a result of early adopter projects, digital pathology infrastructure and IT requirements are better understood and documented for a variety of use cases, according to W. Dean Wallace, MD, Professor of Pathology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Wallace specializes in pulmonary and renal pathology with a strong interest in informatics, as well as radiology and pathology correlation, and he warns of the danger of implementing an “incomplete digital pathology system.”
Wallace will join Dark Daily for a 60-minute webinar, “Digital Pathology Implementation Strategies,” on Wednesday, May 10, at 1 p.m. Eastern. Registration is free.
This webinar is for hospital and health system leaders, as well as independent pathology groups and reference lab executives, who want to know:
- Key workflow aspects of the components needed in a digital pathology service.
- Common limitations of commercial digital pathology products.
- How to structure a digital pathology implementation team.
- A goal-based approach to developing a business case for digital pathology implementation.
Wallace and Orly Ardon, PhD, MBA, Director of Digital Pathology Operations at MSKCC, will lead the call and take questions during the webinar’s live Q&A segment.
Questions About Digital Pathology Implementation
At MSKCC, teams have scanned and archived more than six million histology slides and are prospectively scanning all in-house H&E slides.
“There is a lot of interest out there for digital pathology implementation,” Ardon told Dark Daily, “not only the AI-machine learning opportunities that are enabled with digital slides, but how do we even start a basic digital pathology journey. Institutions and labs don’t realize how many factors they have to think about before they start scanning the first slide.”
“People have limited understanding of the complexities of the business case,” Wallace added. “Do you want to go with a full 100% deployment or a targeted deployment? Do you want to get digital pathology to support tumor boards? By introducing scanners into the tumor board workflow, you can actually cause more problems than you are solving if you are not careful.
“The other aspect of it is the actual technical deployments. You need to begin with careful analysis of functions or services to support,” Wallace said, adding the soft costs of digital pathology can take lab and pathology administrators by surprise.
Ardon and Wallace will present their insights and experiences during the webinar, which has been sponsored by Hamamatsu. Those interested can learn more and register at Dark Daily here. P.A.C.E. credit is available for this program through the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS).
On the Horizon: Incentives and Further Alignment Toward Digital Pathology Adoption
Dark Daily’s new webinar is timely. Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) entered what has been called a “tryout” period to gather data about the use of new, digital-pathology-related Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes in clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. (See coverage in The Dark Report.)
Some believe the efforts of CMS, clinical labs, and pathology groups will result in new reimbursable codes, reimbursement values, and other incentives for using digital pathology (starting sometime in 2024)—if analysis shows use of digital pathology is as widespread as numerous publications would seem to indicate.
The CPT coding development coincides with recent discussions within the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Advisory Committee (CLIAC) about sweeping recommendations to allow continued remote work once the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends on May 11 and recognize digital data as a vital component of diagnostic specimens. (See coverage in The Dark Report.)
CLIAC’s recommendations may translate into a running start for modernizing the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA). CLIA as it is written currently is dated and needs to account for new and emerging technologies, such as digital pathology, medical laboratory industry sources have said for years. (See a recent Dark Report – Dark Daily webinar.)
These developments, as they further align with actions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), could unleash swells of interest in onboarding whole slide scanners and digital pathology tools. Remote workflows became a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it appears they will continue for a period as the Public Health Emergency unwinds, according to the FDA.
Watch Digital Pathology Implementation Strategies
Most executives at hospitals and health systems, private pathology practices, and independent reference labs are on the sidelines watching how digital pathology in research and clinical practice is unfolding.
However, as the pathology field integrates data science and computational pathology, forward-looking hospital and lab leaders can expect greater momentum toward advanced technologies, such as digital pathology tools.
Register here to participate in the upcoming webinar, “Digital Pathology Implementation Strategies.”
This content was developed through independent research and interviews by The Dark Intelligence Group, with support from Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., a provider of whole slide imaging systems and related technology such as optical sensors, light sources, and complex instrument systems that use them. Hamamatsu did not participate in the article’s development. Learn more about Hamamatsu at https://nanozoomer.hamamatsu.com/us/en.html.