Second-opinion consults will be handled by UPMC’s sub-specialist pathologists
Here’s a unique anatomic pathology collaboration that crosses international borders and will utilize state-of-the-art digital pathology technology to support subspecialty pathologist consultations between the United States and China.
In recent weeks, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) disclosed that it will provide a range of healthcare services to what is only described as “the largest pathology laboratory in Shanghai.” Of particular interest to pathologists and clinical laboratory managers in the United States, is the fact that pathologists at UPMC will provide second opinion anatomic pathology services to this as-yet-unnamed Chinese pathology laboratory.
To facilitate these pathology consultations, both parties will use the digital pathology system developed by Omnyx, LLC. The news leaked out in advance of a final signed agreement between UPMC and the Shanghai pathology laboratory.
In some respects, this deal fulfills a prediction made by The Dark Report and Dark Daily in recent years. We have asserted that global outsourcing of anatomic pathology is not likely to automatically mean that specimens flow from higher-cost developed countries to lower-cost developing nations. Rather, we believe the opposite will happen first.
Case Referrals to Sub-Specialty Pathologists in Developed Nations
Start with the fact that the vast majority of the world’s smartest sub-specialty pathologists live and work in developed nations. It is reasonable to expect that middle income and upper income patients in developing economies will want a world-class sub-specialist pathologist to review their case once their local pathologist makes the primary diagnosis. The cost of referring that case to a world-class sub-specialty pathologist will typically be $200 or less—not a significant sum for the educated and concerned patient who will probably pay out-of-pocket for all of his or her healthcare.
The economic incentive here is not to have the pathology diagnosis performed at the cheapest cost. Rather, the goal is to have the patient’s case reviewed by a world-class sub-specialist pathologist to produce the most accurate diagnosis possible—using advanced diagnostic skills likely to be unavailable in that patient’s home country.
Accept these premises and the UPMC–Shanghai pathology laboratory arrangement for second opinion pathology referrals becomes an early example confirming our prediction that the global flow of anatomic pathology specimens will be from developing nations to sub-specialist pathologists in developed nations.
UPMC Will Use Omnyx’s Digital Pathology System
Another noteworthy aspect of the UPMC–Shanghai pathology laboratory arrangement is that it will use the digital pathology system currently under development by Omnyx. Late last month, Omnyx announced that its digital pathology system would enter clinical use at four academic centers in order to collect data in support of an FDA submission. The four sites will be UPMC, Montefiore Medical Center, Stanford University Medical Center, and University Health Network.
It was the spring of 2008 when Omnyx was formed as a digital pathology joint venture between General Electric (NYSE: GE) and UMPC. Each party invested $20 million. At the time, GE officials stated that they expected to develop a digital pathology system and introduce it to the market in as soon as 24 months. This ambitious schedule has slipped, but not by much, considering the technological challenges to be overcome.
Each of these developments involving digital pathology technology will add further momentum to this trend. Pathologists working in community hospital settings will want to closely track the market take-up of digital pathology systems so they can pick the most opportune time for their pathology group to acquire and use digital pathology images and digital pathology systems.