News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel

News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
Sign In

Recent Separate Business Transactions by Fujifilm and GE Healthcare Suggest Bullish Outlook for Faster Adoption of Digital Pathology

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 a December press release, Tokyo-based Fujifilm announced it acquired the global digital pathology business of Inspirata, including its Dynamyx digital pathology system. Inspirata is a Tampa-based cancer informatics company.

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.

Henry Izawa

“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.)

GE Healthcare Partners with Tribun Health

The Fujifilm acquisition followed an October 18 announcement of a collaboration between GE Healthcare and digital pathology company Tribun Health in Europe to provide an interface between the latter’s digital pathology software and GE Healthcare’s Edison Datalogue image-management system.

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.

Dynamyx was originally developed by digital pathology technology company Omnyx, LLC, which was a joint venture formed in 2008 between GE Healthcare and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

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’s Plans

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.

US-based subsidiary Fujifilm Healthcare Americas Corporation will handle future development of the Dynamyx system. In the US, the system is currently cleared for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use with Leica’s Aperio AT2 DX scanner and Philips’ Ultra Fast Scanner.

With its recent moves into digital pathology, Fujifilm will be taking on major competitors including Philips, Danaher, and Roche, MedTech Dive reported.

Stephen Beale

Related Information:

Fujifilm Announces Asset Purchase Agreement with Inspirata, Inc. to Acquire the Company’s Digital Pathology Business

Fujifilm Agrees to Buy Inspirata’s Dynamyx in Challenge to Philips for Digital Pathology Market

GE Healthcare Announces Collaboration to Advance Digital Transformation of Pathology

Leica, Philips Come Out on Top in Digital Pathology Systems Market, KLAS Finds

GE Healthcare Sells Omnyx to Inspirata

Supply Chain Shortages Threaten Medical Imaging Testing While Clinical Laboratories Face Scarcity of Blood Collection Specimen Tubes

From infant formula to contrast dye for CT scans, ongoing healthcare product shortages highlight continuing US supply chain and manufacturing issues

Medical laboratory directors and pathologists have firsthand knowledge of COVID-19 pandemic-driven supply chain issues, having faced backlogs for everything from pipettes and transport media to personal protective equipment (PPE). But the latest shortage impacting blood collection tubes is another example of why it is important to manufacture key products—including clinical laboratory tests, analyzers, and consumables—domestically.

On January 19, 2022, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Letter to Healthcare Providers and Laboratory Personnel recommending “conservation strategies” to minimize blood collection tube use because of  “significant disruptions” in supplies due to COVID-19-increased demand and “recent vendor supply challenges.”

“The FDA updated the device shortage list to include all blood specimen collection tubes (product codes GIM and JKA),” the letter noted.

This announcement followed a similar June 10, 2021, Letter to Healthcare Providers and Laboratory Personnel that stated the FDA was aware “that the US is experiencing significant interruptions in the supply of sodium citrate blood specimen collection (light blue top) tubes because of an increase in demand during the COVID-19 public health emergency and recent vendor supply challenges.”

A spokesperson for Becton-Dickinson (BD), a manufacturer of blood specimen collection products, told Forbes that the COVID-19 pandemic caused “the most unpredictable demand that BD has experienced in our company’s history.” The spokesperson added, “Worldwide, BD produced nearly a half a billion additional blood tubes in 2021 versus 2020 … Like every business across every industry around the world, BD is experiencing limited availability of and access to raw materials, shipping and transportation delays, and labor shortages, which hinders our ability to ramp production.”

Christine Nielsen, CEO of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, explained that the supply-chain problem includes many routine items, such as Phosphate-buffered saline, and cannot be solved by stockpiling certain supplies.

“It’s also a challenge because we’ve moved to just-in-time (JIT) inventory across all sectors, including labs … They outdate just like food [and] are no longer fresh. [The product] is no longer reliable and you can’t use it. So, we can’t stockpile either,” Nielsen told Forbes.

Shortages Hit Other Critical Healthcare Sectors

But shortages of supplies and equipment have spread beyond the clinical laboratory. Intravenous contrast—which contains iodine and is used to improve the accuracy of CT scans and exclude life-threatening conditions such as cancer—has been in short supply since GE Healthcare shut down its manufacturing facility in Shanghai, China, during the city’s two-month pandemic lockdown that began in early April.

“I can’t overstate the importance of iodinated contrast for really critical diagnostic tests,” said radiologist Geoffrey Rubin, MD, a specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary imaging, and professor and Chair of Radiology at University of Arizona, Tucson, in a Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) news release covering the contrast shortage.

“This isn’t an ancillary tool. This is something that’s used many, many times every day for both lifesaving decisions in the setting of trauma and for managing cancer patients and determining the appropriate care for them,” he added.

Rosa DeLauro, US Representative
 US Rep. Rosa DeLauro (above), lamented the fact these vital products are not being made in sufficient quantities in the US. “In the wealthiest nation on Earth, there should be no reason doctors are forced to ration lifesaving medical scans to compensate for a shortage of material,” DeLauro told The New York Times. “We are seeing supply chains break down because of consolidated industries experiencing manufacturing shortages and offshoring American jobs to China.” Clinical laboratory managers have first-hand knowledge of the severity of supply shortages. (Photo copyright: CNN.)

GE Healthcare is one of four companies that supply iodine-containing contrast to the United States, but the other three manufacturers have been unable to scale-up and offset the shortage.

By June 14, 2022, the Shanghai facility had returned to 100% production capacity following the easing of local COVID restrictions, according to a GE Healthcare statement. But shortages remain.

“There is still the challenge of bringing the contrast media across the ocean and distributing it to healthcare facilities across the nation,” Nancy Foster, the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety Policy, told CNN.

“The hospital association estimates that about half of all hospitals in the United States rely on GE for contrast dye to perform about 20 million scans a year, or about 385,000 scans each week,” CNN reported.

Critical Medical Products Must be Manufactured Domestically

Oncologist Shikha Jain, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois Cancer Center in Chicago, told CNN that contrast shortages are “not an isolated incident.”

“We’ve been having shortages throughout the pandemic. At the very beginning of the pandemic, it was PPE shortages,” Jain said. “Now, we have contrast shortages and formula shortages for babies.”

The infant formula crisis is the other headline grabbing news in recent weeks. Three companies—Abbott, Reckitt, and Gerber—manufacture 95% of the baby formula sold in the US, with Abbott controlling roughly 42% of the nation’s supply, CNN reported.

“Initially, this problem affected those who are on more specialized formulas or had nutritional issues,” Stephanie Seger, Director of Government Relations at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., told CNN. ‘Then the gap, or the emptiness on the shelves, increased to the point where it’s now any formula. It’s now any parent of any baby.”

The Biden administration took steps in May to increase the supply of imported formula, but like the Intravenous contrast shortage, the problem has not been solved.

The COVID-19 pandemic has served to underscore the serious issues affecting supply chains for hospital, medical laboratory, and other critical supplies. While no quick fix has appeared on the horizon, the clinical laboratory industry should take steps now to work toward long-term solutions.

—Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

GE Healthcare Update on Iodinated Contrast Media

Update: Blood Specimen Collection Tube Conservation Strategies—Letter to Health Care and Laboratory Personnel

Blood Specimen Collection Tube Shortage: Frequently Asked Questions

Patients Face Long Delays for Imaging of Cancers and Other Diseases

Memorandum: Hearing on ‘Formula Safety and Supply: Protecting the Health of America’s Babies’

President Biden Announces Additional Steps to Address Infant Formula Shortage

Despite Moves to Increase Supply, Families Are Still Feeling the Pain of the Baby Formula Shortage

Blood Collection Tube Shortages Continue, ‘Routine’ Labs Should Be Limited

Hospitals Grapple with Shortage of Crucial Component for Medical Imaging Testing

Iodinated Contrast Shortage Challenges Radiologists

Top 10 Rankings of EHR Market Share Put Epic First as Hospitals, Physicians, and Clinical Laboratories Make Progress on Interoperability

In both the hospital market and the ambulatory market, Epic has the best-selling electronic health records system, according to data issued by ONCHIT

Across the nation, clinical laboratories and pathology groups are busy interfacing their laboratory information (LIS) systems to the electronic health record (EHR) systems of their client hospitals and physicians. Yet, few lab managers know which EHR systems are dominating the market and which EHR systems are barely surviving.

In fact, it can be a challenge to understand market share by vendor. That is because market share can be determined in multiple ways. Dark Daily found three different rankings of EHR vendors. Each was based on slightly different sets of data. (more…)

Wireless Patient Monitoring and Diagnostic Systems Using MBANs Should Be on the Radar Screens of Pathologists and Clinical Laboratory Professionals

Experts are excited about the swift development of wireless remote monitoring of patients; companies expected to develop sensors that incorporate a wide range of biomarkers

Some experts predict that the era of wireless, remote monitoring of patients is almost upon us. It will require pathologists and medical laboratory professionals to learn a new acronym: MBAN, which stands for medical body area network.

There is keen interest in remote wireless monitoring systems. The concept is to free patients from the hospital bed and allow continuous remote monitoring, regardless of where the patient is located. For this reason, in just a few years and in many local markets, opportunities are likely to be ripe for pathologists and clinical laboratory teams to have a role in managing wireless medical devices that use MBANs. (more…)

Financial Experts Predict Sales of Digital Pathology Systems Will Nearly Triple in the United States by 2019

Pathology groups and clinical laboratories gain the benefits of increased connectivity, greater productivity, and a tool to reduce costs

Acceptance of digital pathology systems is growing steadily in both North America and Europe. One sign of this acceptance is the rapid increase in the purchase of digital pathology systems by anatomic pathology laboratories in these regions.

In fact, one consulting company says that the digital pathology market is poised to explode over the next seven to eight years. This will happen as medical laboratories acquire and deploy digital pathology systems to improve their connectivity with other providers, to improve productivity of pathologists, and as a tool to reduce costs. (more…)