Sessions at this annual medical laboratory conference demonstrated that lab outreach continues to be a productive clinical and business line at numerous hospitals and IDNs
Sept. 26-Chicago: During the past 24 months, there have been multiple news stories announcing that different hospitals or integrated delivery networks (IDNs) had signed agreements to sell their clinical laboratory outreach businesses to one of the two multi-billion-dollar commercial lab corporations. Some Wall Street analysts have taken these lab outreach acquisitions as a sign that hospitals are struggling to compete in the outreach laboratory marketplace. They predict that the big commercial labs will continue to scoop up hospital laboratory outreach businesses at a brisk pace.
However, this may be an example of popular wisdom not reflecting the true state of the outpatient/outreach market for clinical laboratory testing services. Evidence of the contrary view—that many hospitals and IDNs have flourishing lab outreach programs—was in plain view last week here in the Windy City.
During last week’s “Leveraging the Laboratory” outreach conference in Chicago, produced by Mayo Clinic Laboratories, the individuals pictured above each presented different aspects of success in operating an effective hospital clinical laboratory outreach program. Front row top to bottom they are Henry Givray, Leadership’s Calling; Brianne Newton, Mayo Clinic Laboratories; Nilesh Kachalia, Yuma Medical Center; Trudie Milner, PhD, Yuma Regional Medical Center. And rear row top to bottom: Robert Michel, The Dark Report; Tony Bull, Medical University of South Carolina; Nicholas Rambow, Corewell Health; Jane Hermansen, Mayo Clinic Laboratories; Ellen Dijkman Dulkes, Mayo Clinic Laboratories. (Photo copyright: The Dark Report.)
Optimism was High at Mayo’s Lab Outreach Conference
Throughout the two days of the conference, there was enthusiasm for the viability of hospital laboratory outreach programs. There was also optimism that these local and regional outreach businesses will continue to be profitable and can support better patient care. Had any of the Wall Street analysts been in attendance, they would have heard the other side of the coin about the profitability and viability of hospital laboratory outreach programs—a story documented by the presentations of different hospital and IDNs that operate flourishing lab outreach programs.
“What makes this meeting unique is that it is the longest-running and biggest conference devoted to best practices in hospital and health system laboratory outreach programs,” said Jane Hermansen, Manager, Outreach and Network Development at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. “There are signs that increased integration within multi-hospital health systems requires a common lab test menu with consistent methodologies and reference ranges.
“During the conference, we heard many participants describe one part of their lab testing services to office-based physicians as ‘inreach’ when it involves employed providers of the parent health system,” she continued. “This is evidence that health system administration recognizes the value of a full longitudinal lab test record for their patients—whether from inpatient, inreach, or outreach testing.
“As well, this year’s exceptionally large attendance shows that hospital-based labs across the United States are forging ahead with their lab outreach services in ways that generate many benefits,” Hermansen noted. “The most important is to help physicians deliver better care to patients. At the same time, the added test volumes from a productive hospital laboratory outreach program improves the productivity of the laboratory while generating much needed income that helps that lab’s parent organization.”
Day one of this two-day event featured presentations about successful hospital laboratory outreach programs. Speakers included:
Day two was organized around hands-on workshops that addressed the management, operational, financial, and sales/marketing elements that make up a growing, dynamic hospital laboratory outreach business. Attendees were fully engaged in these sessions as they learned best practices. Innovations and clever approaches to increasing physician and patient satisfaction were shared during peer-to-peer exchanges.
Local Clinical Laboratories Serving their Communities
Hospital laboratories are uniquely positioned to deliver value to the physicians and other providers in the towns and regions they served. The obvious benefit is that the lab, its employees, and its clinical pathologists all live in the community. They have professional relationships that may go back decades with the physicians who order medical laboratory tests for their patients.
These local hospital labs can report many test results on the same day that they get the specimens from the doctors’ offices. Another benefit for those physicians and patients is that when a hospital lab performs all the tests originated in inpatient, outreach, and outpatient settings, it has a full longitudinal record of a patient’s lab test results, which often covers years of testing. This is important when patients show up in specialists’ offices or hospital emergency departments. Physicians in these settings can see all of the patient’s lab test history, and the tests are performed with the same methodology and have the same reference ranges.
Ways to Differentiate Hospital Laboratory Outreach Services
Hospital and health system laboratory outreach programs have multiple ways to differentiate their lab testing services. During his presentation, Tony Bull, System Administrative Officer, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, provided the following list of different benefits that a lab outreach program can offer to local physicians, patients, and consumers:
Ease of access
Marketing and sales
One point of competitive advantage the speakers emphasized was the outreach laboratory’s access to lab test data. When lab data is combined with patient demographics and other sets of data, an outreach laboratory can develop clinically actionable intelligence that helps physicians and health insurers improve patient care, while lowering the total cost of care. When packaged correctly, these enriched data offerings can generate a new source of revenue for lab outreach programs.
Given the tough finances experienced by health systems and hospitals across the United States in recent years, it’s notable that the attendees at Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ “Leveraging the Laboratory” conference reported positive growth and profitable results from their laboratory outreach programs.
That’s solid evidence that there continues to be an opportunity for pathologists and clinical laboratory leaders of IDNs to ramp up their laboratory outreach businesses to win new client-physicians and produce additional cash flow for their labs.
Post-merger, a first goal is often to achieve cost savings by consolidating hospital laboratory testing into fewer medical laboratory sites
Major integrated delivery network (IDN) healthcare systems continue to acquire other hospitals. These deals are getting larger in scope and confirm that the trend of hospital consolidation is robust and ongoing. They also present a challenge for clinical laboratories that service the IDN’s physicians from both inside and outside the networked systems.
And for good reason. According to Healthcare Dive, the partnership that will create a 28-hospital, $10 billion dollar health system with more than 100 specialty and primary care offices serving patients in Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri. Fiscally, BJC showed $6.3 billion in revenue last year and Saint Luke’s $2.4 billion.
Mega mergers are a big deal (pun intended). They can give the new healthcare organization unrivaled competitive authority in the marketplace potentially passing along lower healthcare prices to patients. But they come at cost to embedded clinical staff, including medical laboratories.
The health system merger gives BJC/St. Luke’s “huge leverage in terms of negotiating power with the insurers,” Ryan Barker, an independent healthcare policy consultant, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Clinical laboratories are also impacted in these mergers when hospital systems consolidate their testing capabilities and locations. (Photo copyright: Missouri Foundation for Health.)
Impact of the BJC/St. Luke’s Merger
BJC and St. Luke’s signed a non-binding agreement to merge on May 31 and plan to reach a final agreement before the year’s end barring regulatory interference. The duo’s combined 28-hospital system will operate out of two headquarters: One in St. Louis managing southern Illinois and eastern Missouri, and another in Kansas City to serve parts of Kansas as well as western Missouri, Healthcare Dive reported.
The merger of BJC and St. Luke’s means the formation of a “clear market leader in Missouri,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, adding that BJC has 40% of the market’s patient discharges and St. Luke’s holds 20% of the market share in the “state’s second largest metropolitan area.”
This will likely manifest itself in leverage during negotiations with healthcare payers that service that area.
“It continues to be the case that the hospitals are trying to gain the upper hand on the insurers,” John Romley, PhD, Associate Professor in the University of Southern California (USC) Price School of Public Policy and USC Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Romley is also an economist at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, and adjunct economist at the Rand Corporation. “That was true 10 years ago. That’s true today,” he added.
“That’s what I always worry about with consolidation is the impact on [healthcare] pricing,” Ryan Barker, an independent healthcare policy consultant in St. Louis and former Vice President of Health Policy at Missouri Foundation for Health, told the Post-Dispatch.
Other Large Health System Mergers and Acquisitions
There have been a growing number of large-scale mergers and acquisitions of IDNs in the last few months. Dark Daily’s sister publication The Dark Report has covered these deals in multiple intelligence briefings.
Healthcare policy makers were surprised by the merger, as Kaiser and Geisinger were often cited as two of the best IDNs in the nation.
Now under single ownership there will be implications that take years to play out, especially for clinical laboratories that now must service a significantly larger physician base. Conversely, if the new combined healthcare system decides to combine multiple medical laboratories to save on costs it will have a huge impact on lab staff.
Another deal recently announced involves UPMC’s (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) announcement to merge with multihospital Washington Health System (WHS) in Washington, Pennsylvania, a WHS news release noted. But the move has drawn pushback from elected officials and organized labor, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
UPMC has recorded rapid growth over the year acquiring smaller hospitals, but hospital mergers are getting closer inspections from federal regulators, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted.
Concentrated ownership of diagnostic services impacts clinical laboratories in many ways. The Dark Report noted that combined IDNs often review clinical laboratory services across the entire healthcare network. Opportunities for third-party commercial labs to step in and run the hospitals’ local laboratory services may also present themselves.
Impact IDN Mergers Have on Clinical Laboratories
Mergers occur for many reasons. Monetary stress has a wide-reaching impact, and some healthcare researchers suggest that financial pressures may cause hospitals formerly hopeful about their medical laboratory outreach businesses to consider selling their programs, as The Dark Report noted.
One significant impact that health system mergers and acquisitions can have on clinical laboratories is to reduce their number, particularly by consolidating testing from multiple sites into a core laboratory.
“There is a growing body of empirical research about the potential for competitive harm to labor markets from consolidation and concentration,” Federal Trade Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, JD and FTC Chair Lina M. Khan, JD, wrote in a joint 2022 statement about the merger of the first and second biggest healthcare providers in Rhode Island. “The loss of competition from mergers may be especially pernicious in the healthcare sector where skilled medical professionals are uniquely limited in employer options within their local geographic area,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
In this case, the plans to merge were ended after the FTC sued to block the partnership.
More IDN Mergers on the Way
But increased FTC scrutiny does not seem to have slowed the trend toward larger merger and acquisition deals. Kaufman Hall’s 2023 National Hospital Flash Report states that both mergers and acquisitions are trending toward cross-regional partnerships and predicts a “new wave of transaction activity,” Healthcare Dive reported. The report looks at actual and budget data collected over the past three years that was sampled from more than 900 hospitals on a recurring monthly basis.
And so, moving into the future, clinical laboratories can expect to see more mergers and acquisitions of IDNs, with consolidation, regionalization, and standardization occurring in the combined IDN’s clinical laboratory once the merger is completed and leadership begins to look for ways to save costs. Labs are generally first to be consolidated because it is easier to move lab specimens than it is to move patients.
Hospital-at-home programs like that of Atrium Health are a trend that may create new opportunities for local clinical laboratories to support physicians treating patients in the comfort of their own homes
Here is a deal that shows the hospital-at-home (HaH) movement is gaining momentum, a trend that clinical laboratories need to recognize for the opportunities it represents. Best Buy Health is partnering with 40-hospital Atrium Health in an HaH program that the healthcare system plans to scale nationally.
This newly-announced collaboration means that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health—as partner—may include the hospitals and providers that are part of the 26-hospital Advocate Aurora Health system (now known as Advocate Health), a non-profit healthcare system that Atrium merged with in December of 2022. Providers and hospitals from North/South Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio all could be participating in the new HaH venture.
This latest partnership between a retail giant and healthcare network demonstrates how innovation is working its way into the US healthcare system via companies not traditionally involved in direct patient care. These two organizations see an opportunity to combine their strengths to “enhance the patient experience of receiving hospital-level care at home,” according to a Best Buy news release.
“This is the coming together of technology and empathy,” said Rasu Shrestha, MD (above), Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Commercialization Officer at Advocate Health, in a press release. “We’re able to leverage the power of social workers, paramedics, nurses and physicians, but also technology to take care of the patients in their homes. We can bring forward things like remote patient monitoring and sophisticated wearable devices that capture their vital signs and combine it with the human touch—bringing it directly into our patients’ homes.” Clinical laboratories that support providers in the states Advocate Health serves may want to contact Best Buy Health. (Photo copyright: Advocate Health.)
Dispatching Geek Squads to Support Telehealth in Patients’ Homes
Best Buy Health brings to its collaboration with Atrium Health expertise in omnichannel business strategies, supply chain, and a platform to enable telehealth connectivity between patients and providers, as well as deploying specially trained Geek Squad agents for in-home support, according to an Atrium Health press release.
“With Atrium Health, we want to help enable healthcare at home for everyone. It’s getting the devices to the home when Atrium Health and the patient needs them,” said Deborah Di Sanzo, President of Best Buy Health.
Atrium Health sees Best Buy Health as a partner that can grow its program while addressing complex in-home technology that can be “tricky” to operate, Retail Dive reported.
“This transition that happens from discharging a patient from a hospital to the void of their home is the dark side of the moon: it’s disconnected, confusing, expensive. What we’ve been doing in the past is working through our hospital-at-home program and putting together a lot of these devices,” Rasu Shrestha, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Commercialization Officer at Advocate Health, told Fierce Healthcare.
“By working with Best Buy Health, we’re developing the seamless connected care experience and an opportunity to truly scale this,” he added.
Supporting hospital-at-home services in collaboration with Atrium Health will be a new role for at least some members of the Geek Squad. “They won’t necessarily be the same team that’s doing your home theater. They will be Geek Squad agents specially trained in health to deliver specific services in the home,” said Deborah Di Sanzo, President of Best Buy Health. (Photo copyright: Best Buy.)
Best Buy’s Healthcare Acquisitions and Growth in Hospital-at-Home Programs
According to Healthcare Dive, Shrestha claimed Atrium’s HaH program “has served more than 6,300 patients and freed 25,000 hospital bed days since it launched in March 2020,” and produced clinical outcomes that were “the same or better” when compared to the health systems’ own hospitals, and with higher patient satisfaction scores.
“We anticipate the partnership will combine Atrium Health operational and clinical expertise with Best Buy Health’s technical and logistical expertise to allow us to scale the program to 100 patients at a time and beyond within our market,” Shrestha told Healthcare Dive. “When you put that into context, this would be the equivalent of having an additional mid-sized hospital and have a real impact on capacity in our bricks-and-mortar facilities.”
Taking Atrium’s HaH Program Nationwide
According to federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predictions, healthcare spending will reach $6.8 trillion by 2030. This might explain why Best Buy increased its investment in healthcare at the same time its sales declined 9.3% in the fourth quarter of 2022 amid softening consumer demand for electronics, Reuters reported.
And, according to Forbes, though financial terms on the Best Buy/Atrium Health partnership were not released, additional investments are planned to “scale [Atrium’s HaH program] beyond the system.”
“We combine our omnichannel, Geek Squad, caring centers, and Current Health services to enable care,” Di Sanzo told Forbes. “At scale, no other company has the holistic combination of resources that when combined, will change the lives of consumers and enable them to heal right in their own home surrounding by the people and things they love the most. Those strengths, combined with Atrium Health’s extensive clinical expertise and deep experience leading in virtual care, will help us improve and enable care in the home for everyone.”
Clinical Laboratory Testing at Home
Clearly there are opportunities for clinical laboratories to support providers who treat patients in their homes. Lab leaders may want to reach out to colleagues who are planning HaH programs in partnership with Best Buy Health, Atrium Health, or other companies around the nation launching similar hospital-at-home programs.
As medical laboratories address staffing challenges, HaH strategies for performing blood tests and other diagnostics on patients in their homes could lead to important new revenue.
This deal continues the trend of corporations acquiring physician practices. Already, the majority of physicians are employees, not partners in a private practice physician group. Under corporate ownership, these physician groups often decide to change their clinical laboratory providers. For that reason, managers and pathologists at local medical laboratories will want to explore how they might provide daily lab testing services to the corporate owners of these primary care clinics.
The Hartford Business Journal called VillageMD’s acquisition of Starling Physicians—which is subject to a state investigation for possible certificate-of-need requirement—one of Connecticut’s “more high-profile healthcare merger and acquisition deals in Connecticut in recent years.”
The Starling Physicians group acquisition comes just a few months after
VillageMD paid $8.9 billion for Summit Health-CityMD of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, with primary care services in the Northeast and Oregon. Walgreens invested $3.5 billion in that transaction, a Summit Health news release noted.
These acquisitions by Walgreens/VillageMD provide opportunities for local clinical laboratories to serve the physicians in these practices, though the operations may have a different patient flow and work process than traditional family practice clinics located in medical offices around community hospitals.
“Starling shares our vision of being a physician-led model and they provide care in a compassionate and exceptional way to all the patients they serve. By integrating primary care with specialty care, we are able to optimize access to high-quality care for our patients,” said Tim Barry (above), CEO and Chair of VillageMD in the news release. “This is a natural extension of our growth in the Northeast, including our recent acquisition of Summit Health-CityMD. Together, we are transforming the way healthcare is delivered in the United States.” Clinical laboratories in these areas will want to develop a strategy for serving the physicians practicing at these non-traditional locations. (Photo copyright: The Business Journals.)
Primary Care at Retail Locations a Growing Trend
Dark Daily and its sister publication The Dark Report have reported extensively on the growing trend by pharmacy chains and other retail superstores to add primary care services to their footprint.
In “By 2027, Walgreens Wants 1,000 Primary Care Clinics,” The Dark Report covered how Walgreens had disclosed that it would spend $5.2 billion to acquire a 63% interest to become the majority owner of VillageMD. Fierce Healthcare reported that “[Walgreens] planned to open at least 600 Village Medical at Walgreens primary-care practices across the country by 2025 and 1,000 by 2027.”
VillageMD is a primary care provider with same-day appointments, telehealth virtual visits, in-home care, and clinical laboratory diagnostic testing such as blood tests and urinalysis. Many VillageMD practices are located in buildings next door to Walgreens sites throughout the United States. (Photo copyright: Walgreens.)
Other Retailers Investing in Primary Care
Other retailers have recently taken deeper dives into healthcare as well.
According to Forbes, “The acquisition comes amid a flurry of acquisitions across the US for doctor practices, which are being purchased at an unprecedented pace by large retailers like Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS Health, Amazon, and Walmart. Meanwhile, medical care providers owned by health insurers like UnitedHealth Group’s Optum and Cigna’s Evernorth are also in the doctor practice bidding war.”
And in February, CVS announced plans to acquire for $10.6 billion Oak Street Health, a Chicago-based primary care company with 169 medical centers across 21 states that plans to have more than 300 centers by 2026.
Do Clinical Laboratories Want Retail Customers?
The question of whether clinical laboratories should pursue retail customers is at this point academic. Consumer demand is driving the change and labs that don’t keep up may be left behind.
“The trend of putting full-service primary care clinics in retail pharmacies is a significant development for the clinical laboratory industry,” wrote Robert Michel, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily and The Dark Report. “These clinics will need clinical lab tests and can be expected to shift patients away from traditional medical clinic sites for two reasons—lower price and convenience—since this new generation of primary care clinics will be located around the corner from where people live and work.”
Thus, healthcare system laboratories or large reference labs may want to reach out to Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, and Walmart for test referrals. These and other large retailers are investing heavily in the belief that consumers will continue to seek convenience in their healthcare.
Loss could indicate an industrywide slowdown in digital health adoption and suggests medical laboratories will want to continue developing a virtual care strategy
Only two years after Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) completed acquisition of Livongo, a data-based health coaching company, the virtual healthcare provider reported a 2022 net loss of $13.7 billion, a company press release announced.
The loss, which has been described as “historic,” is “mostly from a write-off related to the plummeting value of its Livongo acquisition. … By comparison, in 2021 [just a year earlier], Teladoc posted a net loss of $429 million,” Fierce Healthcare reported.
However, during Teladoc’s fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Jason Gorevic said, “We are pleased with the strong fourth quarter and full-year operating results. Despite a challenging macro environment, we were able to expand our product offerings and enhance the level of care delivered across our integrated whole-person platform.” Teladoc Health’s 2022 revenue was $2,406,840 compared to $2,032,707 in 2021. That’s an 18% increase over last year’s revenue, according to the earnings report. Nevertheless, a month before the earnings call Teladoc laid off 300 non-clinician employees, Fierce Healthcare noted.
“Teladoc Health has been at the forefront of the adoption curve, and we believe that our scale, breadth of product offering, and proven outcomes will enable us to maintain and expand our position in the market,” said Teladoc Health CEO Jason Gorevic during February’s earnings call. Clinical laboratory leaders may view the company’s $13B loss as indication that adoption in telehealth by physicians, healthcare providers, and patients of digital-based health services is not happening as swiftly has been predicted. (Photo copyright: The Business Journals.)
Predictions in Telehealth Adoption Fall Short
Teladoc Health, based in Purchase, New York, acquired Livongo of Mountain View, California, in October 2020 for $18.5 billion.
A news release at that time declared that the merger was “a transformational opportunity to improve the delivery, access, and experience of healthcare for consumers around the world.
“The highly complementary organizations,” the release stated, “will combine to create substantial value across the healthcare ecosystem, enabling clients everywhere to offer high quality, personalized, technology-enabled longitudinal care that improves outcomes and lowers costs across the full spectrum of health.”
The deal was hailed as advancing telemedicine and digital health services. As it turned out, though, the demand for those types of services fell far short of the Teladoc’s expectations. One way to interpret the cause of the multi-billion dollar write-down is that adoption of digital health services by physicians, healthcare providers, and consumers is not happening as fast as Teladoc projected.
It may also be that companies allocated too much money to deals during the COVID-19 pandemic, an unstable period of time for making major business decisions.
Teladoc to Reduce Costs while Pursuing Increased Adoption of Virtual Care
Gorevic told analysts during the earnings call that the company needs to reduce costs and reach a market that is “in the early innings.” Year-over-year growth of 6% to 11% is expected in 2023, he said.
“You should expect us to balance growth and margin with an increased focus on efficiency going forward. Part of that approach is rightsizing the cost structure to reflect the current growth rates of the business,” Gorevic said. “The more balanced approach does not mean that we will stop relentlessly pursing growth and increased adoption of virtual care across the industry. Virtual care’s role within the healthcare industry remains underpenetrated, and we will continue to invest to expand our leadership position,” he added.
Digital Health Investing Falls Off
However, citing digital health market data in the new CB Insights report, Becker’s Hospital Review(Becker’s) suggested the digital health bubble may have “popped,” and that funding by investors is falling fast from the “Golden Age” of 2021.
The digital health category grew by 79% in 2021 to $57.2 billion, a record high, according to data cited by Becker’s. In the fourth quarter of 2021, there were 13 new digital health companies with valuations of at least $1 billion each. But by the end of 2022, digital health funding dropped to $3.4 billion. That’s “a five-year low,” Becker’s reported.
“The drop in funding in digital health companies I feel is a response to the volatility in healthcare where over 50% of hospitals and healthcare providers have posted losses for 2022 and a bleak outlook for 2023,” Darrell Bodnar, Chief Information Officer at North Country Healthcare in Lancaster, New Hampshire, told Becker’s.
And, in a statement about hospitals’ financial health, Fitch Ratings said providers in 2022 reported “weaker profitability and liquidity” as compared to 2021. For most providers, a “rapid financial recovery” is not expected, Fitch noted.
Labs Need Telehealth Strategies
All of this uncertainty in the telehealth/virtual care markets may ultimately benefit clinical laboratories and lab investors who delayed investing in technology that enables supporting physicians and patients using telemedicine visits. Still, it would be smart for medical laboratory leaders to develop a digital health strategy to meet consumer demand for lab testing services in tandem with virtual care visits with healthcare providers.
Fujifilm acquired Inspirata’s Dynamyx digital pathology technology and business while GE Healthcare announced a partnership with Tribun Health in Europe
Clinical pathology laboratories, especially in the US, have been slow to adopt digital imaging systems. But recent industry deals suggest that the market may soon heat up, at least in the eyes of vendors. These collaborators may hope that, by integrating diagnostic data, the accuracy and productivity of anatomic pathologists will improve while also shortening the time to diagnosis.
In the press release, Fujifilm stated that 85% of US healthcare organizations use analog systems for pathology. That compares with 86% in Europe and 90% in Asia, the company stated.
“Acquiring Inspirata’s digital pathology business allows Fujifilm to be an even stronger healthcare partner—bridging a technological gap between pathology, radiology, and oncology to facilitate a more collaborative approach to care delivery across the enterprise,” said Fujifilm CEO and president Teiichi Goto in the press release.
The press release cited data from Signify Research, a healthcare technology marketing data firm that is predicting the global market for digital pathology systems would double from $320 million in 2021 to $640 million by 2025.
Fujifilm previously had a deal with Inspirata to sell the Dynamyx system exclusively in the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, an August press release noted.
“A $320 million global industry in 2021 projected to reach $640 million by 2025, the rising number of cancer cases and the demonstrated benefits of digital pathology are fueling significant demand and market growth in the hospital and pharmaceutical industries,” said Henry Izawa (above), president and CEO, Fujifilm Healthcare Americas Corporation, in a press release. “These evolving clinical needs fuel Fujifilm’s investment and innovation in the digital revolution, and we look forward to introducing Dynamyx and its host of unique features and benefits to our Synapse customers and prospects as we strive to enable more efficient medical diagnosis and high-quality care.” (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)
In announcing their new collaboration, GE Healthcare and Tribun Health said the integration of their systems—Edison Datalogue and the Tribun Health suite—would foster collaboration between pathologists and clinicians by providing a consolidated location for imaging records. This capability is especially important in oncology, they said.
“The oncology care pathway is one of the most complex with multiple steps involving a variety of specialists, complex tools, frequent decisions, and large data sets,” said GE Healthcare CEO of Enterprise Digital Solutions Nalinikanth Gollagunta in a GE press release. “With this digital pathology collaboration, we continue our journey towards simplifying the oncology care pathway with improved data management, the digitization of pathology, and streamlined data access.”
Tribun Health, based in Paris, France, offers a digital pathology platform that incorporates a camera system, artificial intelligence (AI)-based analysis, remote collaboration, and storage management, plus integration with third-party automation apps.
GE Healthcare claims that Edison Datalogue has the largest share of the Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) market. That term refers to image archiving systems that use standard formats and interfaces instead of proprietary formats. They are an alternative to the more widely used Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) used in medical imaging.
The collaboration between the companies “is probably a strategic move to position GE as an integrator of imaging data and digital pathology data in oncology,” said Robert Michel Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily and its sister publication The Dark Report.
GE’s History with Dynamyx
This is not GE Healthcare’s first foray into digital pathology. In fact, the company had a major hand in launching the very Dynamyx system that Fujifilm recently acquired.
In “GE Healthcare Sells Omnyx to Inspirata,” The Dark Report interviewed Inspirata CEO Satish Sanan who at that time said the acquisition would allow his company to offer “a fully integrated, end-to-end digital pathology solution” in Canada and Europe. But GE Healthcare chose to end the partnership in 2016, citing regulatory uncertainty and variable global demand. Two years later, GE sold Omnyx to Inspirata.
GE Healthcare’s new collaboration with Tribun Health shows that the company “still recognizes the value of the pathology data in cancer diagnosis and wants to be in a position to manage that digital pathology data,” Michel said.
Fujifilm said it will incorporate Dynamyx into its Synapse Enterprise Imaging suite, which includes VNA, Radiology PACS, and Cardiology PACS. “Future releases of Dynamyx will also create opportunities for Fujifilm to support pharmaceutical and contract research organizations with toxicity testing data management for drug development,” the company stated in the press release.