Last month we shared insights from Bill Lacy, senior vice president of Medical Informatics on why Fujifilm made its strategic business decision to enter the digital pathology market. We recently sat down with Dr. Mark Lloyd, FUJIFILM Healthcare Americas Corporation’s vice president of pathology, to learn more about the value of digital pathology and its impact on healthcare providers, IT teams, and most importantly, patients.
Help me understand why digital pathology is important?
Many people are not familiar with the practice of pathology. Pathologists are often referred as “the doctor’s doctor.” While pathologists usually have no direct interaction with patients, they are responsible for the diagnosis of 92% of cancer cases. They review more than 450,000 cases every day in the U.S. and millions globally. Yet, despite massive volumes of critical patient work, pathologists have used the same tools for decades: microscopes and glass slides.
Fortunately, the sector’s transformation to digital workflows is eliminating the physical constraints that previously prohibited pathologists from performing activities common in other service lines, such as radiology. Digital pathology frees pathologists from the glass, and software solutions such as Synapse® Pathology facilitate a more rapid and accurate review.
Doctors can now collaborate instantly, regardless of location. Pathologists no longer need to be peering into a multi-headed microscope and can view images simultaneously with their colleagues, regardless of their location. This is critically important when a diagnosis is difficult and consensus among a group of subspecialists is required. Pathologists no longer need to ship specimens across great distances to reach trusted colleagues for second opinions. With Synapse Pathology, doctors can share images instantly.
In their day-to-day workflow, pathologists never have to wait for glass again. Users adopt lean workflows by pulling cases from labs the moment images are available. Pathologists no longer need to waste time traveling between sites to be physically present at a specific location just to sign out cases. This time savings is important for two reasons: First, patients are waiting for what could be a life-changing diagnosis. Second, it creates capacity, so pathologists can spend more value-added time doing what they were trained to do: diagnose disease.
There are operational advantages with digital pathology workflows as well. Technicians and admins no longer need to pull cases for tumor board, research, education, or similar requests. Labs can also eliminate inefficiencies such as replacing specimens lost in transit, second-opinion slide transportation delays, and inefficient case allocation workflows.
Digital pathology enables patients to receive their diagnoses and second opinions faster. Pathologists and lab staff work more efficiently. Everyone wins!
You described how this solution impacts patients. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Absolutely. One of the things that drives Fujifilm’s pathology team is the positive impact our products and services have on patients around the world. Many of us take this work very personally. Unfortunately, today, almost everyone knows someone who has had a life-changing diagnosis. I mentioned a faster case turnaround time, which is important when you’ve had a procedure for a suspicious lesion and you are waiting on pins and needles for results. I certainly take this personally when my father’s skin lesions are shipped from his dermatologist’s office in Virginia to a subspecialist pathologist in California, and it takes 10 days to hear back from the office.
On a broader scale, it’s also important to recognize how important subspecialist care is, and how difficult access can be without these tools. There are many pathologists who focus their life’s work exclusively on gastrointestinal (GI) pathology, neuropathology, dermatopathology, or breast pathology. They are well-trained for very difficult diagnoses that dramatically affect which treatments are recommended. Now, with Synapse Pathology, and the deep reach of Fujifilm’s medical informatics solutions, patients have instant access to the world’s best care.
Pathologists with patients in small, local, and even rural hospitals can use our software to reach the specialists required to confirm or render a challenging diagnosis, enabling them to keep care local. In my mind, this democratizes the practice so that nearly every patient receives the highest quality of care, no matter where they reside.
This is how we make a positive difference for our pathologists and the patients they serve.
What about information technology (IT) support? What does this software require?
Information technology has been critical to the successful operation of hospitals for decades. Our IT specialists have experience with digital transformations in other service lines in which Fujifilm has a strong presence, including radiology and cardiology. The needs of pathology are both similar and different. A benefit of working within the Synapse Enterprise Imaging portfolio is that many of these technologies can be integrated to facilitate collaboration between physician groups. Additionally, common technologies, such as Fujifilm’s Synapse VNA and Synapse Cloud Services, can be used to support images across multiple service lines.
The pathology group at Fujifilm has some innovative technologies that help our IT partners manage image lifecycle, prune unneeded files, stream images in low-bandwidth environments, and optimize file sizes so they are not prohibitively large. We work together with the facility’s IT group to select their preferred deployment strategy, whether on-premise, in the cloud, or via a hybrid approach. We demonstrate the security and scalability of our product. We perform the integration with information systems, integration engines, monitoring tools, and similar existing infrastructure. IT has nothing to be afraid of when considering adding pathology to their suite of supported medical imaging technologies.
In fact, Fujifilm will use our experience and technologies to make it easy.
Synapse Pathology, now a product within the larger Fujifilm Enterprise Imaging portfolio, was unveiled at the 112th Annual Meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP) in New Orleans held March 13–16 and will soon be showcased at the 2023 Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting in Austin, June 14–16. If you’re planning to attend SIIM, make sure to stop by our booth. Request your demonstration here.
Recently, Mark spoke with Editorial Director Scott Wallask for the Dark Report, a publication that covers news for pathology group practices, hospitals, independent lab companies, and health systems. Their conversation, which centered on Fujifilm’s acquisition of Dynamyx, may be viewed here.
Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about Fujifilm’s Enterprise Imaging portfolio that links all healthcare IT systems across all diagnostic departments, click here.