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
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Even as Digital Pathology Is Poised to Be Disruptive in Primary Diagnosis, Most Anatomic Pathology Groups Are Unprepared for How Their Incomes Will Change

Pathologists and practice administrators should prepare a strategy and a timetable for their group’s acquisition and deployment of a digital pathology system and whole slide imaging

Anatomic pathology is a medical specialty at the brink of a major technological disruption. FDA clearance of the first digital pathology system and whole slide imaging (WSI) for primary diagnosis means that every surgical pathologist will soon need to decide when to adopt this technology to avoid declines in group revenue and pathologist compensation.

Not in decades have pathologists faced a comparable dual threat. One threat is the use of digital pathology and WSI for primary diagnosis in ways that deliver faster answers to referring physicians, while creating new business models for anatomic pathology groups. At greatest risk from this technology, however, may be sub-specialist pathologists who depend on specialty referrals and second-opinion consults.

Second Threat Is How Digital Pathology Can Erode Pathology Group’s Revenue

The second threat is how failure to adopt digital pathology and WSI at the right time in the market cycle will put a pathology group’s revenue at risk, while causing pathologist compensation to erode. Pathology groups that are quick to adopt digital pathology and whole slide imaging are expected to gain clinical advantage and additional case referrals, while pathology groups that defer adoption will probably lose market share—and the revenue associated with those lost case referrals.

How Fast Will Pathology Groups Act to Implement Digital Pathology?

It was last April when the FDA cleared the first digital pathology system and whole slide imaging for use in the primary diagnosis of biopsied tissue and resection cases. With clearance to market of the Philips IntelliSite Pathology Solution (PIPS), it is expected that other companies will submit their digital pathology systems for FDA review as well. As that happens, the market for digital pathology systems will expand and become more competitive.

“How fast pathologists in the United States adopt digital pathology for primary diagnosis is the big question,” observed Robert L. Michel, Editor-In-Chief of The Dark Report, Dark Daily’s sister publication. “We’ve interviewed pathologists at several community pathology group practices who currently use digital pathology and whole slide images for things like tumor boards, second opinion consults within and without their practice, and teaching purposes. They have strong opinions about how quickly they want their group to begin using a digital pathology system for primary diagnosis.

“For example, Advanced Pathology Associates (APA) in Rockville, Md., is a group with 15 pathologists who cover seven hospitals,” stated Michel. “APA was the community pathology group site for the study data Philips needed to submit with its FDA pre-market application. They had the system for the nine-month trial and used it to evaluate 500 cases and thousands of glass slides and WSIs. APA returned the system at the conclusion of the study, but pathologists at APA are already in the process of acquiring their own digital pathology system to use for primary diagnosis.”

Anatomic Pathology Group Went Hands-on with Digital Pathology System

In a story The Dark Report published about Advanced Pathology Associates, pathologist Nicolas Cacciabeve, MD, APA’s Managing Partner, commented, “Because we had the opportunity to be hands-on with this digital pathology system, we saw how it changes daily workflow, improves the ergonomics of reading cases, and contributes to increased productivity.”

Cacciabeve identified the immediate benefits APA will accrue after it acquires its own digital pathology system and begins to use it for primary diagnosis. “[Having a digital pathology system] … also opens new opportunities for our pathologists to add more value—whether it is handling more complex cases through real-time consultation, or through better data management and image retrieval, or freeing up pathologists to get out of the lab to collaborate with clinicians.”

Pathologist Clive Taylor, MD, Considers DP’s Clearance to Be ‘Huge’

The FDA’s clearance of the first digital pathology system was called “huge” by noted pathologist Clive Taylor, MD, PhD, a professor of pathology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (where he served as Chair of Pathology from 1984 to 2009) in an interview with The Dark Report published on July 17.

“The FDA’s clearance of this system for primary diagnosis is huge,” stated Taylor. “… I say that because digital slide scanners in many pathology departments around the country are used secondarily. For example, a pathologist will look at a glass biopsy slide today and think, ‘I should scan this to get a score, or an accurate count, or to send it to a colleague in Washington or London or some place.’ In that sense, pathology labs are using whole slide imaging for secondary purposes.

“The FDA clearance of whole slide imaging for primary diagnostics will foster changes in anatomic pathology departments that will improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis and drastically reduce the time it takes to get second opinions and to reach a primary diagnosis,” Taylor predicted.

Pathologists, Practice Administrators Need a Strategy for Digital Pathology

Because of the potential for digital pathology systems and whole slide imaging to be disruptive to both the clinical practice of pathology and the revenue and income earned by pathologists, it is recommended that pathology practice administrators and pathologist business leaders of their respective groups understand this new technology and how early-adopter pathology labs are using it to add value to their diagnostic services while generating new streams of revenue.

The four expert speakers for this critical Dark Daily webinar are (clockwise from upper left): Keith Kaplan, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Corista, Concord, Mass.; Liron Pantanowitz, MD, Professor of Pathology and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh; Isaac R. Grindeland, MD, Gastrointestinal Pathology, Incyte Diagnostics, Spokane Valley, Wash.; and Dan Angress, for ClearPath Derm of Dayton, Ohio, and President of Angress Consulting, LLC, Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo copyright: Dark Daily.)

To give practice administrators and interested pathologists this comprehensive knowledge of digital pathology and whole slide imaging, Dark Daily is presenting a special webinar, titled, “Primary Diagnosis with Digital Pathology Systems and Whole Slide Images: What Every Pathologist Needs to Know, Why It Will Be Disruptive, and How Innovative Pathology Groups Are Already Making Money with DP.”

This critical webinar takes place on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM EDT.

Essential Knowledge about Digital Pathology Systems, Whole Slide Imaging

The webinar is organized to help all pathology groups, academic pathology departments, and pathology laboratories understand:

  • The current capabilities of the technology for digital pathology and WSI;
  • How these technologies are evolving in ways that add functionality and improve productivity; and—most importantly,
  • Two case studies of pathology groups already using digital pathology and WSI imaging to add clinical value and develop new sources of revenue.

Speaking during this webinar will be:

  • Keith Kaplan, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Corista, Concord, Mass.: For nearly a decade, Kaplan has been one of the leading commentators on the use of digital technologies and Web 2.0 capabilities in pathology. He will provide strategic context about why the FDA’s clearance of a digital pathology system for use in primary diagnosis is a trigger event for all pathology groups.
  • Liron Pantanowitz, MD, Professor of Pathology and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.: An internationally known expert on the use of digital pathology systems and whole slide imaging, Pantanowitz will give webinar participants a concise understanding of the technology’s current capabilities; how it is being used at UPMC; the lessons learned in the use of digital pathology to support UPMC’s international pathology collaborations; and what technology advances to expect in the near future.
  • Dan Angress, for ClearPath Derm of Dayton, Ohio, and President of Angress Consulting, LLC, Los Angeles, Calif.: This is a fascinating case study of how ClearPath Derm is using digital pathology capabilities to support added value services for its referring physicians that, most importantly, generate additional revenue for the pathology group.
  • Isaac R. Grindeland, MD, Gastrointestinal Pathology, Incyte Diagnostics, Spokane Valley, Wash.: This regional pathology super-group has 40 pathologists, four anchor locations, and contracts with multiple hospitals. Grindeland will explain how Incyte leverages its digital pathology capabilities to improve productivity and performance, while better meeting the needs of its hospital and physician clients.

Preparing Pathology Groups for Disruptive Potential of DB, WSI

Because of the potential for digital pathology systems and whole slide imaging to disrupt many long-established clinical practices, while at the same time creating new financial winners and losers among the nation’s pathology groups, it is imperative that pathologists and practice administrators gain the necessary knowledge to prepare their groups. Armed with these insights, they then can develop timely and appropriate strategies to ensure their group’s clinical excellence and financial sustainability moving forward.

For details about the August 17 webinar and to register, use this link (or copy this URL and paste it into your browser:

—Michael McBride

Related Information:

Primary Diagnosis with Digital Pathology Systems and Whole Slide Images: What Every Pathologist Needs to Know, Why It Will Be Disruptive, and How Innovative Pathology Groups Are Already Making Money with DP

FDA Allows Marketing of First Whole Slide Imaging System for Digital Pathology

Whole Slide Imaging In Pathology: Advantages, Limitations, and Emerging Perspectives

Digital Images and the Future of Digital Pathology, Liron Pantanowitz, MD

Philips Awarded FDA Clearance for Digital Pathology Solution for Primary Diagnostic Use

What Does FDA Approval of a Digital Pathology System for Use in Primary Diagnosis Mean for the Pathology Industry? New Dark Daily Webinar to Provide Answers and Insights for Pathologists and Pathology Practice Administrators

Dark Daily Story on Pathology 2.0 and Digital Pathology Blog


Lab-Specific CRM Helps Innovative Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups to Intelligently Cut Costs while Boosting Service to Physicians, Patients

Sonora Quest Labs and Incyte Diagnostics streamline operations, eliminate data silos, and increase efficiencies using real-time analytics from laboratory-specific CRM

Across the nation, clinical laboratories and anatomic pathologists face two common challenges. One is shrinking lab budgets and less payment for lab tests. The other is the need to maintain physician and patient services at a high level. Both factors are fueling greater interest in lab and healthcare-specific customer relationship management (CRM).

Stated another way, labs and pathology groups are being squeezed by the need to operate on less revenue, while also increasing their quality of customer service to retain existing clients and expand market share. CRMs are a proven way to achieve and sustain superior levels of customer service in a surprisingly cost-effective way. In fact, many labs that implement a CRM find that the return on investment comes swiftly, in just a few months.

Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups Hit by Declining Prices, Revenues

“The clinical lab industry is solidly in an era where payers are slashing the prices they pay for lab tests and hospitals—struggling with their own financial problems—are cutting their lab budgets,” observed Robert L. Michel, Editor-in-Chief of The Dark Report, “These factors are motivating lab administrators and pathologists to look for solutions that allow them to run their lab at less cost, while improving staff productivity and customer service.

“This is why first-mover and early-adopter medical labs saw the potential of real-time analytical middleware and lab-specific CRM solutions to help them meet the challenge of running their labs on less money, while simultaneously sustaining superior levels of customer service,” continued Michel. “Every lab manager knows that the path to improved profitability is blocked by poor workflows, time-consuming quality metrics processes, and disconnected sales and customer service teams.”

Innovative medical laboratory managers report that their investment in laboratory-specific CRM systems (also known as healthcare-specific CRM) suddenly gives them access to data that has been locked away within their legacy LIS and other software systems. By unlocking this data in real-time dashboards and reports, they gain competitive advantage in the lab testing marketplace. A healthcare-specific CRM makes it possible to monitor a wide range of activities, including:

  • Proactively tracking relations with client physicians;
  • Monitoring workflow and lab operations in real time; and
  • Gaining a comprehensive view of all sales and customer service activities at both the aggregate and provider levels.

Tracking Key Benchmarks, Productivity, and Accountability

Sonora Quest Laboratories (SQL) of Tempe, Ariz., a joint venture between Banner Health and Quest Diagnostics (NASDAQ:DGX), wanted to reduce the amount of time spent collating reports and performing manual calculations, as well as breaking down cumbersome data silos across the organization in order to streamline communication and collaboration.

Prior to activating a laboratory-specific CRM platform, employees at SQL spent five hours per day pulling key metrics and reports. To move forward with strategic initiatives, the company could not continue to “struggle with endless silos of data and information,” a case study on SQL’s challenges states.

CRM Designed for Medical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

To address these concerns, SQL turned to a laboratory-specific CRM that integrates existing silos and systems into a centralized interface through automated data capturing. The solution provides detailed, real-time dashboards with visibility across the organization. Graphs and charts enable users to:

  • Track their progress meeting turnaround time benchmarks;
  • Ensure their volume is level-loaded; and
  • Track by the hour how many tests are coming in and completed, the case study notes.
hc1 customer-relationship management

The hc1 customer-relationship management (CRM) dashboard (above) provides an easy-to-navigate interface for tracking multiple benchmarks and key workflows for clinical laboratories and healthcare providers. (Image copyright: hc1.)

“The first step was to integrate our LIS [laboratory information system], and our timekeeping, call center metrics, and bench scheduling tools, into the hc1 CRM solution we had installed,” stated Tamara Nelson, Lean Master Black Belt at SQL. “Once that was accomplished, we could build actionable reports to determine where to focus our process improvement efforts.

“Now we can look at high-level trends in lab productivity,” noted Nelson. “We can also drill down to look at every process in our lab by hour, shift, discipline, instrument, and employee to compare time periods and other factors.”

According to the case study about Sonora Quest Laboratories, after its activation of the healthcare CRM, SQL reduced time spent pulling daily performance reports from about five hours per day to just 45 minutes a day. This increased overall employee efficiency by 85%.

SQL’s use of the CRM now makes it possible to:

  • Provide real-time financial and operation trend analysis to key stakeholders;
  • Use live dashboard and reports to review and manage TAT (turn-around time) benchmarks, utilization, reimbursements, volume, and productivity;
  • Track employee productivity across departments to drive accountability; and
  • Broadcast reports to immediately notify key stakeholders of any risks, missed benchmarks, or red flags.

Better Way for Clinical Laboratories to Track Client Interactions

Another medical laboratory that benefitted from implementing a laboratory-specific CRM is Incyte Diagnostics of Spokane Valley, Washington. Founded in 1957 by pathologists, Incyte provides anatomic pathology services throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Incyte needed a way to consolidate data coming from the multiple systems used to manage its sales process and payer information. The different systems created a disconnect between departments and, as structured, could only deliver a few real-time insights into volume or revenue shifts, client account activity, marketing campaigns, or sales activities.

Having received 35,000 e-mails from his sales team during the previous two years, Incyte’s Chief Marketing Officer Nate Koenig knew he had to find a better way to track client interactions.

“We needed a better understanding of what was taking place within our clients’ hospitals. To grow, we had to improve. That’s where the CRM solution we selected proved invaluable,” stated Koenig in a case study detailing how Incyte found a solution to tedious workflows and disorganized information tracking.

After adopting a healthcare CRM, Incyte could:

  • Help sales reps gain more field time;
  • Centralize client information;
  • Track sales activities;
  • Properly store data; and
  • Gain access to real-time analytics.

Anatomic Pathology Lab Exceeded Production Goals and Customer Expectations

According to the case study, by eliminating data silos and streamlining sales operations Incyte was able to:

  • Exceed its sales growth goal in 2016 by 107%;
  • Retain 99.51% of current business;
  • Reduce the overall workload of the client services team 6.25%; and
  • Gain 32 additional days of field time for its 17 sales reps.

Both Sonora Quest Laboratories and Incyte, Inc., are examples of how innovative medical laboratories are using informatics to meet the challenges of declining revenue and the need to sustain a high level of customer service. In today’s connected world, those labs that are first to achieve useful integration of their LIS with a CRM will enjoy competitive advantage.

Surviving in this challenging environment means clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups must unlock the power of data informatics to improve their financial performance and better serve providers and patients. To help laboratory leaders reach these goals, The Dark Report recently published  a white paper titled, “3 Critical Rules for Surviving in 2017: Your Medical Laboratory’s Guide to Thriving in Today’s Healthcare Landscape.”

This essential resource demonstrates how a laboratory-specific CRM enables medical laboratories to not just survive, but to thrive in today’s healthcare environment, while providing added value to healthcare consumers and providers.

3 Critical Rules for Surviving in 2017: Your Medical Laboratory’s Guide to Thriving in Today’s Healthcare Landscape

Get your copy of this important asset by clicking on this link. Or, copy this URL into your browser:

—Andrea Downing Peck


Related Information:

3 Critical Rules for Surviving in 2017: Your Medical Laboratory’s Guide to Surviving in Today’s Healthcare Landscape

How Incyte Dx Eliminated Data Silos and Streamlined Operations to Exceed Sales Growth Targets by 107%

How Sonora Quest Labs Eliminated 4 Hours a Day in Performance Report Work

Clinical Laboratories Turn to Healthcare-Focused CRM to Optimize Operations and Increase Market Share, Despite Decreasing Reimbursement

More Clinical Pathology Laboratories Use Middleware for Business Intelligence and Lab-specific Customer Relationship Management