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article imageDigital pathology market set to expand in 2018

By Tim Sandle     Sep 23, 2017 in Science
A new report predicts a growth in the digital pathology market, with 33 companies set to produce products for hospital laboratories, and with the market value expected to reach in excess of $4 billion.
The new report into shifts within the pathology technology arena comes from the cancer diagnostics company Inspirata. In the overview the report notes there are no at least 33 players worldwide providing digital pathology hardware, software and services, ranging from start-ups to big companies like Phillips. Examples include:
The scanning of histology slides;
The use of analytical software (instead of personnel) to correlate patient data and images;
The electronic delivery of patient information;
Sharing of digital information between hospitals, including having another pathologist provide a second opinion rapidly (so-called "telepathology");
Having secure data transmission to avoid security breached;
Setting up files of images from past cases so that diagnoses can be cross-compared;
Establishing databases to assist with making medical decisions more quickly.
According to a review published in the journal Histopathology, the technology with the biggest take-up and anticipated future interest is with slide scanners which are able to produce whole slide images. These images of skin and tissue samples can be explored by image viewers in a way comparable to the conventional microscope. Digital slides can be used in pathology for education, diagnostic purposes (clinicopathological meetings, consultations, revisions, slide panels and, increasingly, for upfront clinical diagnostics) and archiving.
The growth, also tracked by Digital Journal earlier in 2017 ("Pathology services are embracing digital technology"), is set to rise to $4.5 billion. While this market is dominated by North American firms, it is the Asian market that is anticipated to have the highest growth over the next five years. This partly because of a widespread promotion of digital pathology by the Ministries of Health in Asia. In addition, as Digital Journal has reported, there are government-backed programs in other countries, such as NHS England’s National Pathology Programme’s, "Digital First: Clinical Transformation through Pathology Innovation."
As with any digital field, there are barriers to adoption of digital pathology. These obstacles include, as an article in the journal Pathology and Laboratory Medicine International recently summarized: limiting technology, image quality, problems with scanning all materials (such as cytology slides), cost, digital slide storage, inability to handle high-throughput routine work, regulatory barriers, ergonomics, and, with some pathologists, a general reluctance to embrace new technology. As technology advances and a new generation of pathologists begin to emerge, many of these barriers are likely to collapse.
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